by Beki Pineda
UNDER THE LINTEL – Written by Glen Berger; Directed by Amy Kaplan. Produced by Treeline Theater (presented at the Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut) through December 9. Tickets available at 303-440-7826 or thedairy.org.
We enter a messy room, as unlike a neat and ordered library as is possible. Paper litters the floor; stacked on two tables are random papers, shoes, detritus of confusion. A man sweeps the floor giving himself room to stand, muttering to himself and the audience as he goes. He turns and begins his tale after warning those in the room that he does not want to be interrupted by things that ring and shine. He even waits patiently while one audience member gets help in turning off a phone. A Dutch librarian ( he is never given a name) who has been forced to “retire” sans pension and against his will, he begins the story of a book returned to his library through the slot 113 years overdue.
The well worn Baedeker’s Travel Guide provides one or two clues as to its personal travels. Determined to trace the book’s journey, he uses the few clues he has – that it was checked out by someone only identified as A. and a laundry ticket for a pair of trousers left to be cleaned in London – he begins his own journey of discovery. He ties the book holder’s path to the “myth” of the Wandering Jew. A Jewish shop keeper stood under the lintel of his doorway on the day Jesus was led through the streets toward his Crucifixion and, because of fear and self-interest (as thousands of people do every day), refused to give his fellow man comfort or assistance. Jesus warned that the man would be condemned to wander until He returned (the Second Coming). Since that hasn’t happened yet, presumably the fearful shop keeper is still wandering.
Following carefully documented “evidences” or clues that he pulls out of a beat up suitcase, the Librarian follows in the footsteps of the errant library patron around the world to London – China – New York – Australia – and finally back to Holland. By following the Wandering Jew, he becomes a Wandering Christian. His determination, once started, is inevitable. As we join him on his telling of the journey, our own questions begin. What happens next? What does this clue mean? Where will he take us in the next ten minutes? As in life, the end of the journey is incidental in importance to the taking of the journey in the first place.
The one man one act extended (70 minutes) show is a daunting task. Steve Grad, an experienced actor and director, proved up to the task. His fumbling bumbling style of delivery made the evening seem extempore as if it were a tale he had told a few times to old friends and was now telling us in the greatest confidence. He picked up random factoids along the way and was only too happy to share them with this new group of old friends.
He illustrated the tale with slides depicting places he had been in his search. However, there were objects on the floors, tables, and walls that were not used to explain any part of the story. I can understand the symbolism of shoes and suitcases in the tale of a journey, but in a play of this nature, I rather expected everything on stage to be there for a purpose. But a minor point compared to the monumental achievement of Mr. Grad keeping us engaged in his story for 70 minutes on his own. Bravo!
Only one more weekend but worth a jaunt to the Dairy Center to see this one.
A WOW factor of 8!!