Category Archive for: ‘Kedar K. Adour’

UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL an intellectual bemusement at A.C.T.

UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL: Solo Drama by Glen Berger. Performed by David Strathairn. Directed by Carey Perloff.  American Conservatory Theater (ACT), 415 Geary St., San Francisco, CA. (415) 749-2228 or October 23 – November 17, 2013.

UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL an intellectual bemusement at A.C.T. Rating: ★★★☆☆(5/5stars)

With a title of Underneath the Lintel one might expect that a “Lintel” is a tree and we may be in for an evening of romantic endeavor or pithy philosophizing. We do get a bit of unrequited romance and some mundane philosophy before the stage lights black out, but it seems to be an afterthought in Glen Berger’s solo drama that began as a one night theatrical piece performed by the author in 1999 at the Yale Cabaret.  There have been many revisions since the first professional performances began in 2001. Since then it has been staged throughout the world with the first local production at the Live Oak Theater in Berkeley in July 2013. It received good reviews.

Those good reviews may be related to the production being mounted in a 99 seat theater with minimal props and a fine local non-equity actor (Mike Mize) giving a big performance to a small intellectual bemusement. However, as often happens at A.C.T, one of the premiere acting companies in the nation, there has been a propensity to over-produce a less worthy script. So it is again with Under the Lintel pretentiously subtitled An Impressive Presentation of Lovely Evidences.

Director Carey Peroff has wisely selected award winning/nominated David Strathairn to play the of an obscure, introverted yet obsessive librarian to deliver Glen Berger’s well researched, sometimes obtuse and other times imaginative lines. However, the play is not the thing but Strathairn’s acting carries the evening as he rambles around on Nina Ball’s cluttered set.

That set is integral to the story. Strathairn, playing the unnamed Dutch librarian, has rented a second-rate music hall theatre to deliver a lecture to a small audience about his “evidences” proving a certain biblical myth is an actuality.  On stage right there is a large chalk board that is used to aid in listing “his evidences” that he produces one by one, appropriately tagged and numbered, from his non-descript suitcase. That suitcase has been with him on a world-wide quest as he finds “evidences” that have convinced him that the myth of the Wandering Jew is reality. To illustrate his “evidences’ he also uses a slide projector and a tape player.

Although the story of the Wandering Jew has numerous variations, depending on the country or the era in which it is told, Berger elected to use the storyline of a Jewish shoemaker whose shop was along the route Jesus was forced to take to the site of His crucifixion. The shoemaker while standing “underneath the lintel” (the supporting beam of his window) refused to offer Jesus assistance when He collapsed on the doorstep. Jesus was said to say, “I will see you again when I return.” That return is the second coming of Christ and is yet to happen and the Jew is forced to live in perpetuity and never resting.

The Librarian’s quest began with his fascination and obsession with the late return of a dog-eared Baedeker’s Travel Guide. That book is 113 YEARS late and there are notations in the margins as well as a claim check for cleaning a pair of trousers. The cleaning establishment is still operating in London no less. Our intrepid Librarian heads off to London. Thus the journey begins. With each “evidence” uncovered another is found, has been duly numbered and presented to the audience as proof of his theorem. 

His has been fired from his job (without a pension) and is now free to roam. One wonders where he got the money for travel but remembering this is a mythical tale . . . maybe, we must suspend disbelief.  He travels, in order of his “evidences’ from: 1. Hoofddorp, Netherlands,  2. London, England, 3. Bonn, Germany, 4. Derby, England, 5. Dingtao, China, 6. New York City, New York, 7. Brisbane, Australia, 8. Acropolis, Greece, 9. Paris, France, 10. The coast of Norway, 11. Juneau, Alaska, 2.Uxmal, Mexico, 13.Stamford, Connecticut, 14. Easter Island.

David Strathairn as The Librarian showing the map of his travels

His journey is liberally illustrated with his slides and Perloff moves him about in a hectic manner probably conveying his restlessness. Near the end of his lecture, the librarian frantically shows photos of inscriptions “I was here” to prove his points and even invokes the memory of the ubiquitous “Kilroy was here!” Yes there is humor but the stretches between laughs are a bit tedious.  Running time 90 minutes without intermission.

Creative Team: Nina Ball (scenic design), Jessie Amoroso (costume design), Alexander V. Nichols (lighting design), and Jake Rodriguez (sound design).

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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