For close to a decade, he’s famously been known as social justice advocate Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For his Broadway debut, however, Chris Evans decided to play against type as a bad cop – cocky and scheming, complete with a stern brush cut and handle-bar mustache – in Kenneth Longeran’s Lobby Hero. The transition proved successful as the actor’s performance earned rave reviews when the dramedy opened at the Helen Hayes Theater on Monday night.
Lobby Hero is a re-staging of the acclaimed 2001 play by Longeran, director of the poignant Manchester by the Sea for which he won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Set in 1999, the drama-cum-comedy primarily unfolds in a lobby of a generic apartment building in Manhattan. The story follows the lives of four characters: Jeff (played by This is Our Youth‘s Michael Cena), a chatty night security guard; William (Atlanta‘s Brian Tyree Henry), his overbearing boss; Dawn (Diary of a Teenage Girl star Bel Powley), an eager rookie police officer; and Bill (Chris Evans), her charming but manipulative senior partner whom she has a huge crush on.
As Evans is undisputedly the biggest star in the cast and making his Broadway debut at that, theater critics didn’t waste time in giving their two cents worth on whether Captain America is as stellar on stage as he is on the big screen. Luckily for the 36-year-old actor, most of them have no doubt that he indeed has the chops.
David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporterwas certainly impressed by Evans’s first outing on the Great White Way.
“The actor best known as Captain America brings plenty of cocky swagger, his thumbs hooked into his utility belt like an Old West cowboy with a bushy mustache to match, but his assured performance never aims to be a star turn. Rather, it’s an integral part of an evenly balanced, four-person ensemble piece.”
Entertainment Weekly’s Leah Greenblatt felt that the actor added many layers to a shallow character. She wrote, “His Bill is a master manipulator, sexually voracious and casually cruel. But as thinly written as the role reads on the page, Evans makes him more than a swaggering caricature of white male privilege; even as he bullies and blusters, his layered take hints at the kind of inner battles and insecurities that Cera’s Jeff wears so guilelessly on his sleeve.”
The New York Times’ Ben Brantley hailed the Avengers star for making “a terrific Broadway debut.”
“Mr. Evans is a marvel of smooth calculation and bluster. His Bill is the most blatantly manipulative of the characters, which means the most likely to succeed.”
Lobby Hero, described by Entertainment Weekly as “a smart, thoughtful piece of work, fairy-dusted by the starry presence of its celebrated cast,” covers topical themes such as power abuse, workplace inequality, racial prejudices, and sexual harassment, all of which are as relevant today as they were in 1999. The play’s limited run ends on May 13.
In the meantime, as Evans stays in a rented apartment in New York City for the duration of the play, the Boston native continues to attend private tap dancing lessons twice a week just to clear his mind and work out a sweat. He tells The New York Times that it is just a new low-pressure hobby when he’s not performing on stage.
Besides playing against type, what really tickles Chris Evans about his debut role on Broadway is that with his new mustache, he is hardly recognizable on the streets unlike before.
“People don’t recognize me at all. I can look them straight in the eye. It’s like I’m invisible.”
Well, Evans better enjoy his “invisibility” while it lasts as he will soon be seen and be recognized once again as Steve Rogers/Captain America – one who is mustached and bearded at that – when the much anticipated Avengers: Infinity War opens next month on April 27. Check out the epic trailer below: