The up-and-coming Deep Dish Theater Company of Chapel Hill, NC will conclude its second season with an all-star production of last season’s hit R-rated Off-Broadway comedy-drama, Lobby Hero, by hot new playwright and screen writer Kenneth Lonergan. Lonergan wrote the offbeat comedy-drama This Is Our Youth (produced last season by Manbites Dog Theater of Durham, NC), as well as the Oscar-nominated film You Can Count on Me.

Deep Dish artistic director Paul Frellick says Lobby Hero is the frank and very, very funny story of a young man who gets himself deeper and deeper in trouble as he keeps trying to ‘do the right thing’ when confronted by a series of thorny ethical dilemmas.

Frellick tells Robert’s Reviews, “I’m a big fan of Kenneth Lonergan’s plays and his film, ‘You Can Count on Me.’ They’re full of surprises, since they don’t conform to typical plot-driven structures. His characters have real lives — like all of us, they’re often confused, inarticulate, and prone to act in their own worst interest.

“Lonergan has a really acute sense of the theatrical,” Frellick claims. “His writing doesn’t dazzle; it almost appears improvised. But when you look at it carefully, you see how meticulously he has crafted every moment.”

Lobby Hero takes place entirely in the lobby of a Manhattan high-rise. Frellick says, “… [A] young slacker named Jeff (Kevin Poole) is finally settling into his job as a security guard. But his attempts to help his supervisor, William (Torrey Lawrence), and Dawn (Jeri Lynn Schulke), a rookie policewoman, get him into trouble with veteran officer Bill (John Allore) and leave him in a quandary about how to ‘do the right thing.'”

Ostensibly a simple story, Lobby Hero presents a number of major challenges to director Paul Frellick and his production team, which includes Rob Hamilton (sets), Steve Dubay (lighting), Judy Chang (costumes), Ross White (sound design), and Devra Thomas (props).

Frellick says, “The trick is making it all look and feel genuine — from the characters’ responses to the uniforms to the paintings on the wall.”

Playwright Kenneth Lonergan won an Outer Critics Circle Best Play Award and a Drama Desk Best Play nomination for Lobby Hero.

“Soon after making the year’s best movie, ‘You Can Count on Me,'” wrote New York Magazine, “Kenneth Lonergan delights us with his irrepressible Lobby Hero, confirming him as a comic wizard.” Time Out Magazine labeled Lobby Hero as “not only the best drama this year; it’s the best comedy, the best romance, the best character study and the best issue play all rolled into one.”

“We are excited to present our first North Carolina premiere,” Frellick said in preshow publicity, “and ‘Lobby Hero’ is a perfect play for us. Its focus is intimate and entirely on the characters, who are really struggling with some big issues. As in all of Lonergan’s work, you’re never entirely sure where the characters are headed, but they’re so engaging you’re willing to go along for the ride. We’re particularly blessed with a terrific cast of young actors, many of whom have appeared with us before.”

Deep Dish Theater Company presents Lobby Hero Thursday-Saturday, May 8-10, 15-17, and 22-24, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, May 11, 17 and 24, at 3 p.m.; and Wednesday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m. at the Dillard’s end of University Mall, at the intersection of Estes Drive and U.S. 15-501, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. $12 ($10 students and seniors), except pay what you can performance May 11. NOTE 1: Deep Dish’s new storefront theater is located in the area behind Branching Out, which is located between Cameron’s and The Print Shop. Enter through Branching Out. NOTE 2: There will be a discussion after the May 18 matinee, and Dr. David Carr will lead the Deep Dish Book Club discussion of The Risk Pool by Richard Russo ( – inactive 8/03) at 7 p.m. before the May 23 performance. 919/968-1515.