SPOLETO 2006 » Opera & Theatre

REVIEW ‌ Underneath the Lintel

This touching story almost packs a punch

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A slightly flustered ex-librarian begins a presentation. The story he has to tell is very important to him — he has a box of scraps, he says, which serve “to prove one life and justify another.”

These scraps are pieces of evidence he’s gathered on a journey he has undertaken, a journey which has become his life. The journey is why he is an ex-librarian.

A 113-year overdue travel guide that he found in the night depository sent him on a journey to track down whoever dropped off the book. And so began his investigation and life-changing excursion, which has led him to stand before us, trying to convince us that he has actually stumbled upon a real-life figure from religious mythology. He is following a person whose existence he is trying to prove to everyone else, and the task is taking its toll on him.

Rodney Lee Rogers plays the significantly nameless librarian, who loses himself in his obsession, becoming as anonymous as the man he’s following.

Rogers’ librarian is almost a little too neat and tidy, a little too at ease, and a little too charming. He’s an extremely talented actor, and his skill (especially his humor) shows with this — but somehow this doesn’t seem the role for him. (Perhaps it’s just too difficult not to draw comparison with Stephen White, who played this role in PURE’s regular season.) Rogers leaves his Dutch persona at times; when he comes back to it the portrayal is good, but he doesn’t seem to get into it until the end of the play, as tears well in his eyes. Then all the emotion, which he’s been talking about, finally travels through his body.

That feeling of a surface portrayal may be what led some of the audience to nappy-time during the middle of the production, which admittedly does drag a bit even in text. But Rogers’ immense likability brings them back at the end — he knows how to scoop the audience back into his fold.

Sharon Graci’s direction helps greatly with the audience recovery, also, keeping the librarian in motion as he literally reaches out to the audience for their attention and affirmation.

The beauty of Underneath the Lintel lies in its complexity. It is beautiful in both its sadness and joy, its frustration with and affirmation of life. It’s a lovely, heart-wrenching story; right now the production just needs a bit more of that to come through.

UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL • Piccolo Spoleto’s Theatre Series • $15• May 29, 31, June 1 at 8 p.m., June 2, 11 at 6 p.m., June 3 at 2 p.m., June 4, 10 at 9 p.m. • PURE Theatre, The Cigar Factory, 701 E. Bay Street • 554-6060

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