Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘glen berger’

Underneath the Lintel
by Glen Berger
Directed by Lana Pepper
New Jewish Theatre
January 28, 2016

Glynis Bell Photo by Eric Woolsey New Jewish Theatre

Glynis Bell
Photo by Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theatre

A 113 year old travel guide is the impetus for an unfolding mystery and a journey of self-discovery in Glen Berger’s Underneath the Lintel.  This is a show that’s been done in St. Louis before, at the 2013 St. Lou Fringe Festival, but now, New Jewish Theatre has brought it back in a well-acted, energetic production. It’s an emotional, educational, and entertaining show featuring a remarkable performance by its star, Glynis Bell.

Since the discovery process is an important part of this story, I won’t give too much away about what happens. Basically, it’s the story of an eccentric, somewhat sheltered Dutch librarian (Bell) who becomes consumed with the task of finding the person who dropped a book in the night deposit slot at her library. This isn’t just any book, either. It’s a travel guide that’s 113 years overdue.  The story is told in flashback, as Bell gives a presentation in a somewhat dingy old lecture hall, introducing her various “exhibits” and showing slides as she recounts her journey to learn the identity of this mysterious figure who seems to have turned up at various places around the world at various times in history. In the process, the librarian herself gets an education about herself and about the world. She says she’s seeking to “prove one life and justify another”, all the while revealing a story involving an ancient apocryphal legend that touches on issues of Christian theology, Jewish identity, and the very nature and existence of God.

This is a one-woman show, so the casting is important. Actually, when I saw this at Fringe, the Librarian was played by a man. It’s just as effective performed by Bell, who is full of energy and enthusiasm as she recounts her tale. Her sense of excitement and wonder is apparent as she discovers each piece of the puzzle, as well as recounting her trip around the world accompanied by slides and atmospheric tunes provided by musician Will Soll on the mandolin. Bell is the embodiment of the story, as her search for information becomes one for self-fulfillment as well. The stories of how she visits various cities and then finds herself exploring and enjoying their cultural offerings such as plays, opera, and concerts are fascinating and convincingly portrayed.  Bell’s librarian is awkward, but enthusiastic and extremely likable, portrayed with just the right amount of an accent, as well.

The space is set up with a stark sense of realism. The old, dated lecture hall with its linoleum floors and wood-paneled walls is well-realized by set designer Kyra Bishop. Costume designer Michele Friedman Siler has outfitted Bell’s librarian with an appropriately worn-out suit, and lighting designer Michael Sullivan achieves the appropriate atmosphere with institutional type lighting at first, with adjustments at various times to suit the story.

Overall, this is an entertaining production and a compelling story. It’s well-structured, and Bell tells the tale with urgency and wonder. It’s sure to raise questions concerning identity and the very purpose of life. Centered around this excellent performance, Underneath the Lintel is a worthwhile tour of time and place.

Glynis Bell Photo by Eric Woolsey New Jewish Theatre

Glynis Bell
Photo by Eric Woolsey
New Jewish Theatre

Underneath the Lintel at New Jewish Theatre runs until February 13, 2016.

Read Full Post »