Plays don’t always age well. Even a play that was written a decade ago can sometimes seem outdated or irrelevant on stage.
The opposite is true for “Lobby Hero,” which opens at Capital Repertory Theatre on Friday. The present has provided more layers, more connotations to the play, which was first written two decades ago by Kenneth Lonergan.
At times both funny and melancholy, the play follows Jeff, who is a security guard (and not a doorman as he’s sure to say several times) and William, his mentor and superintendent, whose brother has been accused of murder. Then there’s Bill, a longtime cop who is having an affair with a “friend” in the building and Dawn, a budding cop who just wants to do the best she can and has a crush on Bill.
“Since the play was originally written a lot of the issues in the play have gotten unearthed and brought to the surface and really confronted in a much more direct way culturally. I believe the audience will be watching it from a slightly different lens, whereas [when it was first written] everything was a little bit more buried and beneath the surface and now it’s exploded and we’re seeing the effects of that every day in the news and in the way that people are trying to figure out how to be a little different,” said Sarah Baskin, who plays Dawn.
Her character’s narrative touches on aspects of the #MeToo movement and on how expectations of workplace dynamics have changed in the last few years. There are also themes of police brutality, bullying, and Black Lives Matter throughout the play, which was revived on Broadway last year and was nominated for a Tony Award.
“I really love the play because it’s about a bunch of people trying to do what feels right to them, it’s about moral codes and everyone is living by their own sense of what is right and in their own sense of what is right, wrong happens. I love that because it’s so relatable and so human,” Baskin said.
It’s part of why she was so intrigued by her character in the first place.
“I think the thing that I was initially drawn to most about Dawn is that she really wants to do the right thing and keeps tripping up in that process in a way that feels very youthful and very open-hearted and very well-intentioned. ‘I want to do the right thing, I want to be a good person, I want to make a change in the world’ and in that process [we see] all the hiccups and the mistakes,” Baskin said.
One of those mistakes includes accidentally sending someone to the hospital while on duty, which leads to assault charges and sleeping with her (married) partner.
Preparing for the role — her first with theREP — she mulled over the lifestyle and the mindset of a police officer.
“It’s something I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about before. It’s not a profession I ever considered so [I thought]about what it means to want to be a cop to create more order in the world, where that impulse comes from. What does it mean to decide that you are going to be a member of law enforcement?” Baskin said.
A native of Montreal, Canada, becoming a cop was never really on Baskin’s list of careers to explore.
“Both my parents are classical musicians so I grew up in a really artistic household, playing a lot of instruments and singing,” Baskin said.
When she was in her early teens, she was drawn to performing the spoken, rather than sung, word.
“I got really interested in plays and drama and I found the spoken word, the conversational aspect of acting really interesting and so different from music. Music is inherently abstract in terms of its storytelling. Plays are the opposite of that,” Baskin said.
She’s performed in productions like “Death of a Driver,” “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore,” and in shows like “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Blindspot,” and others. Baskin is also working on a new production with playwright Cheri Magid that explores and reexamines how the #MeToo movement impacts how we read classics like Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.”
In the meantime, she’s enjoying working on “Lobby Hero,” with actors Kenny Toll (who plays Jeff), Mark W. Soucy (who plays Bill) and Jonathan Louis Dent (who plays William), along with director Megan Sandberg-Zakian.
“We have an amazing cast, the four of us are having such a great time. Megan is amazing, she’s just so great to work with. She’s extremely articulate and sensitive and thinks about the story as a whole and also the minute moments. It’s been a great process,” Baskin said.
WHEN: Fri. - Sun. Oct. 20
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 11 North Pearl Street, Albany
MORE INFO: capitalrep.org