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Lobby Hero, Goodman Theatre. Likable loser Jeff, the protagonist of Kenneth Lonergan's 2001 off-Broadway hit, is a security guard working the graveyard shift in a Manhattan high-rise--his first job since getting dumped by the navy for smoking dope. Jeff is the kind of dude people tell their problems to, but when he gets drawn into his friends' messes he turns out to be a class-A fuckup. He has a crush on rookie cop Dawn, who regularly drops by the building with her burly partner-mentor, Bill; but when Jeff tells Dawn that Bill regularly visits a party girl on the 22nd floor, he stirs up trouble. The atmosphere is further poisoned when Jeff's supervisor, uptight overachiever William, confides that his brother asked him to clear him of a crime by providing a false alibi--despite Jeff's good intentions, he's a better listener than he is a keeper of secrets.

Lonergan's play stumbles under the weight of its complicated plot. But it succeeds as a character study of four people whose imperfections are as engaging as their virtues. Director Robert Falls's top-notch ensemble works together beautifully on designer Linda Buchanan's sleek set. Julie Granata as Dawn, Scott Cummins as Bill, and Rolando Boyce as William believably and distinctively convey their characters' varying responses to intense personal and professional pressures while Lance S. Baker brings a rich understanding of body language to diffident, charming but insecure Jeff.

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