‘Lobby Hero’ runs at the Hayes Theater through May 13. 240 W. 44th St., 2st.com.
High professional standards, personal integrity and good intentions run hand in hand with compromising situations, deceit and negligence in Kenneth Lonergan’s 2001 comedic drama “Lobby Hero,” which is now making its Broadway premiere with film actors Michael Cera (“Superbad”) and Chris Evans (“Captain America”).
The solid production (directed by Trip Cullman, “Significant Other”) marks the kickoff of Second Stage Theater’s long-delayed takeover of Broadway’s intimate Helen Hayes Theater, which has been meticulously refurbished for the occasion.
Second Stage is now the fourth nonprofit company operating both Broadway and Off-Broadway facilities (in addition to Lincoln Center Theater, Roundabout and Manhattan Theatre Club), lending it more presence and prestige.
“Lobby Hero” centers on the well-meaning but passive and socially awkward Jeff (Cera, using his characteristically nebbish persona), a slacker in his late 20s who is currently working as a graveyard-shift security guard at a Manhattan residential building after getting kicked out of the Navy for smoking pot.
William (Brian Tyree Henry, aggressive in tone), his direct supervisor, has taken Jeff under his wing and offered him advice, but that has not stopped Jeff from shamelessly sleeping on the job. “They feel safe. They don’t know I’m sleeping,” Jeff insists.
They are paid occasional visits by the cocky and macho police officer Bill (Evans, in an excellent performance) and his trainee partner Dawn (Bel Powley, evoking insecurity), who is struggling to assert herself on the job.
Despite a slow start and an abrupt ending, the play takes on an absorbing quality with the news that William’s brother has been accused of participating in a brutal murder, which brings out the complexities in the four uniformed characters. It also contains many funny moments and themes (harassment, crisis management, social mobility) that are relevant to working professionals.
Future programming at the Hayes will include Young Jean Lee’s “Straight White Men” and a remount of the recent Off-Broadway revival of Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song.” Considering that the theater was recently serving as a place for long-running shows like “Rock of Ages” and “The 39 Steps” to quietly downsize, the Second Stage acquisition should be welcomed by New York theatergoers — and “Lobby Hero” is a fine way to inaugurate it.