How poetically expletives roll off the Irish tongue and how brightly twinkles the Irish eye in Donald Creedon's tragicomedy The Lobby.
On duty in the lobby of a plush high-rise apartment building in downtown Manhattan, Irish doorman-philosopher Jimmy Burgess is browbeaten through life by the more forceful personalities around him, and even his most powerful armory--a quiver of witty verbal ripostes --is rarely deployed before the bullying party leaves.
Yet Creedon has created an endearing central character, especially in David Davitt's twitchy portrayal of long-suffering and of his unspoken love for Una, an actress from Dublin, played to the height of neurosis and melodrama by Jacqueline Kealy.
Indeed all eight of the play's characters are richly painted with their unique eccentricities.
The play's ingratiating villain is Miles (Mickey Higgins), who tricks Andy (Johnnie McConnell), a good-hearted yuppie living in the building, into lending him his apartment to impress his own mother (F.J. Murphy) during her visit from Dublin. Meanwhile Miles is secretly ``shagging'' Andy's snobbish and overbearing live-in girlfriend Olivia (Ethel Gartland), pockets the money the couple had set aside to have the apartment redecorated, and thereby stiffs two hapless Irish painters, Toc and Barney (Conor McManus).
Performed with a brazen relish by Paddy Sheanon, Toc is the play's foulest-mouthed clown, obsessed with his low ``spare'm count'' and how a doorman can leave his post ``to take a shite,'' and who illustrates that ``every cloud has a silver lining'' with the story of the three-legged dog who didn't need to cock at a lamppost.
Yet Creedon's hilarious and judicious use of exaggerated stereotypes is the silver lining to the clouds hanging over the Irish: The ``Irish New Wave'' of yuppie architects and lawyers clashes with ``our stage history of country yobbos and drunken louts''; the heroism of ``J.C,'' the Irish soccer legend Jackie Charlton, is set in a nation ``full of clerical pedophiles''; and romantic reminiscences about Dublin Bay come crashing down among ``the buildings black from diesel fumes'' and the ``arse-ways ... smallminded Irish mentality'' of busybody housewives.
Creedon's direction handled exits and entrances deftly, particularly in the comic effect produced by condensing the onstage frenzies into upstage elevator cubicles accessed via sliding doors in Jimmy Maloney's set design. And Andy's surreal tango with Una across the lobby, choreographed by Josephine Auciello, was at once ticklish and spectacular to behold.
But timing, and pacing between lines, were sometimes sloppy, while the overlong plot's denouement is unsatisfying in denying Miles a well-earned disgrace.
Yet The Lobby proves the words of actor Rip Torn, that ``Laughter is the glint off the surface of the waters, but the waters run deep. And a laugh is just as meaningful as a tear.''
Copyright 1996 Ian Reed
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