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Dundas Little Theatre’s new play reimagines what hero means

‘Edgy contemporary drama’ Lobby Hero and its flawed characters and difficult themes expected to generate a lot of talk, reflection among attendees.

Nicholas Ruddick is the chair of the Dundas Little Theatre’s play reading committee that proposes a playbill to the DLT board each season. The aim is to select “good plays that are not frequently undertaken by other local community groups. We try to choose one classic play, one comedy, and one edgy contemporary drama to make up the annual playbill,” he says. 

Lobby Hero was the board's choice for the edgy contemporary drama to round out our 2023-24 season.” It opened April 19 and continues to May 5.

Lobby Hero producer Christine Marchetti is excited about the choice. “I’d love to be able to listen to every conversation at intermission and as theatre-goers leave the theatre at the play’s conclusion. I anticipate that this is one that will generate a lot of talk,” she says.  

“I think people will be questioning the morality of the decisions each character makes, the humanness of their choices, and that they will be reimagining their idea of hero.”

Marchetti has been on the DLT board since 2018; in fact, she’s presently its chair. She’s also performed in many productions, including in the concurrent run of Bloom at Village Theatre Waterdown. She reflected on what draws her to Dundas’s amateur theatre.

From left, Claire Shingleton-Smith as Dawn, Bernard Applewhaite as William, Brian Gilmour as Jeff and Brad Forbes as Bill.
PHOTOS: Keith Sharp

“There is a real community at DLT. It’s a supportive and appreciative environment, and we really work hard to provide our audience with thought-provoking plays, not just the usual community theatre fare. I think it sets us apart,” Marchetti remarks. “We also have one of the best theatre spaces in the region.”

That love of both the creative community and physical space at DLT is also reflected by Lobby Hero director Gregory Flis. “I fell in love with the stage and audience setup at Dundas Little Theatre, particularly how the stage can be constructed to project into the audience. This intimacy engages the audience better than many other traditional theatres can do.” 

Flis was involved with a DLT production years ago but says his connection was solidified through some more recent, “very rewarding” experiences, including playing Einstein in Einstein's Gift in 2019 as well as a role in Verdict in 2022.

He found the place chock-full of talented individuals. “There are many people whose talents I deeply admire at Dundas … not just actors, but stage designers and builders, business people, tech experts.” With all that to lean on, Flis says he “relished” the challenge of staging Lobby Hero, which “balances dark humour and difficult themes.”

The play is set within the lobby of a downtown Manhattan highrise, and features a quartet of characters including a young security guard, his supervisor, and two police officers. Jeff, played by Brian Gilmour, is the hapless security guard; William, played by Bernard Applewhaite, is his serious, by-the-books supervisor. Joining them are Bill (Brad Forbes), as an overbearing cop and Dawn (Claire Shingleton-Smith), as his rookie partner.

Complex and gritty real world issues soon encroach upon that controlled and elegant foyer, (complete with revolving door), the work of set designer Michelle Chin. There’s a murder investigation, divided loyalties, ethical dilemmas and abuses of power.

Lobby Hero is an award-winning play that "provides thought provoking dialogue on race, gender, and power imbalance," says producer Christine Marchetti. Above is Brad Forbes as Bill and Bernard Applewhaite as William.

Marchetti relishes the rich flavours of the play. Lobby Hero “provides thought provoking dialogue on race, gender, and power imbalance. The conversations are rich and meaty, and there is a lot for an actor to explore,” she says. “There isn’t a whole lot of action, but there is so much bubbling beneath the surface, and it’s surprisingly funny. All of this is to say that the writing is what first drew me to this play.”

Ruddick concurs, saying the play is attractive on many levels, having “all strong parts, with excellent dialogue and themes any audience can relate to.”

Flis has been impressed with his cast’s commitment to the play and to each other. “Their growth has been tremendous, and from the start, they have worked as a team. They portray strong characters, but the actors have treated Lobby Hero as an ensemble piece and are incredibly supportive of each other.”

This production sees Applewhaite in his first role with DLT. The local theatre community being so tight-knit, it’s no surprise that Applewhaite was drawn to participate because of his past experience performing with Flis in To Kill a Mockingbird at The Player’s Guild.

As chair of DLT’s aforementioned play reading committee, Ruddick also takes time to outline Lobby Hero’s pedigree as an award-winning play by a critically acclaimed playwright, noting that it was not only nominated for Outstanding Off-Broadway play for its initial run in 2001, but had a very successful Broadway revival in 2018 with a well-known cast.

Born in the Bronx and a graduate of the New York University playwriting program, Kenneth Lonergan is a film director, playwright, and screenwriter who has been nominated for multiple Golden Globes in addition to having won an Oscar & BAFTA Award. Lonergran’s list of writing credits include the screenplays for Analyze This (1999), Gangs of New York (2002), and Manchester by the Sea (2016), the last which he also directed. In 2020, Lonergan was named a visiting fellow and artist in residence at Oxford.

Lobby Hero had its U.K. premiere in 2002, notably including David Tennant (as Jeff). In 2018, the play’s Broadway revival featured Michael Cera as Jeff, Chris Evans as Bill, and Brian Tyree Henry as William. All three saw multiple nominations, including Cera and Henry for Tony Awards as well as Henry and Evans for Drama League Awards. The production itself was also recognized with nominations.

Lobby Hero runs at Dundas Little Theatre until May 5. Above is Brian Gilmour as Jeff and Claire Shingleton-Smith as Dawn.

Past reviewer Toby Young has said of Lobby Hero: “Lonergan is particularly good … at showing how good intentions can be undermined by unconscious desires. Few of his characters are capable of resisting their own malignant impulses."

Flis hopes the audiences will be moved and provoked by the play. “I want the audience to hear the humour of the play, to laugh even when it doesn't seem appropriate, and I want them to feel discomfort as well,” he says. 

He also hopes those who see the play will be challenged to think.

“I want audiences walking away asking questions. Was there a hero? Who was it? What would I have done in some of the situations the play presented?”

As Marchetti says: “Morality isn’t always a straight line. What makes us human are the choices we make, and why we make those choices. We are all trying to be better, do better, and strive for more. We all experience varied success (at) these goals, but it’s what makes us interesting.”


April 26, 27 and May 3, 4 at 8 p.m.
April 28 and May 5 at 2 p.m.
Dundas Little Theatre at Garstin Centre for the Arts
37 Market St. S., Dundas
Box office: 905-627-5266
Ticket information & purchase 
Tickets: $25
Seniors (65+) and full-time students with ID: Sunday matinees, $20
All seating is general admission (no reserved seating)
The house opens 30 minutes before each show
Content notice: This show contains coarse language and references to sexual assault