Wednesday, September 14, 2011

‘NexStage Presents’ launches 10th season

Play readings spur imagination

Express Staff Writer

Jeff is as bungling in his role as a night security guard in a Manhattan high-rise as he is with women. He can't hide his affection for Dawn, a rookie cop who only has eyes for her partner, Bill, a corrupt officer who is cheating on Dawn with a woman in 22 J, an apartment in the building Jeff oversees.

Jeff's loyalty is put to the test after his supervisor and mentor, William, comes to him with a moral dilemma.

So goes "Lobby Hero" as it follows four ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. The play probes the depths to which ordinary people will descend to justify themselves.

The work of playwright Kenneth Lonergan, best known for his stunning film "You Can Count on Me" and as co-writer of "Gangs of New York," is slated for a free reading on Tuesday, Sept. 20, by nexStage Presents, which launches its 10th season this fall.

Lonergan has been called one of the most significant voices in contemporary theater today, and "Lobby Hero" was nominated for the Outer Circle Critics Award, which is just the kind of résumé that nexStage Presents director Jon Kane looks for when choosing plays to present throughout the year.

"We bring really great plays that wouldn't be produced otherwise because of financial constraints," Kane said.

When people hear about a play reading, the visual often conjured is that of someone, or several someones, sitting in chairs on a brightly lit stage reading out of a book. Nothing could be further from the reality of a nexStage Presents reading.

Kane regularly calls on local performers like Claudia McCain, Richard Rush, Charlotte Hemmings and her brother Will, who rehearse at least once before the reading. What the audience gets is an animated—though seated—presentation of the story that forces the stretching of the imagination.

"You really listen to the words," Kane said.

Free wine and cookies sweeten the evening that begins at 6:30 p.m. at nexStage on Ketchum's Main Street.

Kane tries to stage at least five shows a year. The next will be in November and is called "Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them," a dark comedy by Christopher Durang.

Jennifer Liebrum:

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