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What is it? Monotony meets murder as Jeff, a 20-something security guard in a Manhattan apartment building, learns that a colleague has provided a false alibi for a sibling. Jeff faces a moral dilemma — should he keep his mouth shut or reveal the truth in an attempt to aid and impress probationary police officer Dawn? Kenneth Lonergan’s play has been hailed as a tour de force, and called his most accessible work. As Jeff, the accomplished Jamie Smithson should make the most of Lonergan’s complex characterization.

Why see it? It’s a lot of fun — Time Out New York called the play “a big-hearted masterpiece.” The cast is mostly made up of CofC alumni now living in New York, including Jamie Smithson (The Full Monty, Piccolo 2007’s Urinetown). It’s directed by David Lee Nelson of Skinny White Comics.

Who should go? Anyone who’s ever been stuck on a dull-ass night shift, worked with hapless colleagues, or has a fondness for New York apartment life. Whether you’re looking for light comedy or an intense ethical drama, this play should deliver.

PICCOLO SPOLETO • $15-20 • 2 hours • May 24, 26, 30, June 1, 5, 7 at 8:30 p.m.; May 25, 31, June 4, 6 at 5 p.m. • Chapel Theatre, 172 Calhoun St. • (888) 374-2656

Greatest American Everyday Hero: Jamie Smithson is a rent-a-cop with a dilemma

Jeff is a luckless 27-year-old slacker stuck in a dead-end job as an apartment building security guard, just one step up from doorman.

He’s been kicked out of the Navy for smoking dope, and he’s looking for a quiet place to tuck himself away from the world for a while. Jobs don’t get much quieter than the midnight to 8 a.m. shift, with only his straight-laced superior William to keep him awake. When both guards get swept up in a murder investigation, Jeff must decide whether to support his captain or tell the cops.

Jeff’s a very lucky fictional character. He’s been created by Kenneth Lonergan, author of This Is Our Youth and The Waverly Gallery. Lonergan is famed for his complex characterizations, so Jeff has three dimensions, a backstory, and realistic tics. But that complexity means he’s up to his eyelids in angst when his equally well-wrought captain lets slip that he’s provided a false alibi for his brother in the murder case.

Two cops arrive to follow up on the case. One’s a hard-bitten veteran called Bill; the other is a rookie named Dawn. Jeff takes a shine to her when she’s left in the lobby. This attraction draws Jeff deeper into a maze of moral obligations.

The friction between them makes for lots of subtle interplay and realistic verbiage. (Critics have compared Lonergan’s ear for dialogue with David Mamet’s). There’s also a lot of humor, which makes stand-up comic David Lee Nelson a wise choice to direct.

Lobby Hero‘s so funny and well written,” he says. “It’s one of my favorite plays, and I’ve wanted to do it for a while.”

Nelson is best known to Charleston audiences for stand-up show Skinny White Comics. He’ll be bringing his inherent sense of comic timing to direct the cast. It’s made up of Smithson (The Full Monty) and College of Charleston alumni Mandy Schmieder and Paul Rolfes (who both worked on Keeping Watch). The part of the captain will be performed by CofC Professor Joy Vandervort-Cobb.