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THEATER REVIEW: Underneath the Lintel

Have Book, Will Travel: A librarian's quest to find the borrower of a book overdue by 113 years

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Underneath the Lintel
Presented by PURE Theatre

July 17-20, 24-25, 7:30 p.m.
$25
Circular Congregational Church
150 Meeting St.
(843) 723-4444
www.puretheatre.org

The audience waited quietly as the wind crushed the trees and rain lashed the windows outside the Circular Congregational Church.

The gray-haired speaker took the stage. He had a learned air and seemed to carry the burden of tremendous knowledge.

When he spoke, his congregation listened.

But this was not a sermon delivered by a man of faith. It was Glen Berger's Underneath the Lintel, a spiderweb narrative reprised by PURE Theatre that stretches across history and the globe to ensnare the people and places representing myth, adventure, and belief in a higher power.

Thursday's storm may have diminished attendence to Lintel's opening night, but the weather added to this play's thunderous drama. The audience listened intently as the Librarian (Rodney Lee Rogers), the narrator and one-man star, unraveled his compelling tale of a globetrotting goose-chase, even as jagged white tails of lightning flicked across the sky.

The labyrinthine story is punctuated by Rogers' succinct telling and ability to draw the audience in to project a feeling of interconnectedness and excitement. The story succeeds in capturing our attention due to its intimacy. But it's also rewarding just to watch Rogers bring his character to life.

When the Librarian's obsession boils over, Rogers feverishly stalks the stage. When the Librarian grows reflective, or soft spoken, Rogers's eyes trail off and his hand runs across his brow. When the Librarian is determined, Rogers raises his forefinger to the sky to exclaim, "Let us proceed!"

Like a prism, Lintel can be viewed from numerous angles. If we look at the beginning, the play is about a meticulous Librarian whose dedication to his profession finds him searching for a delinquent book borrower. If we look at the middle, the play is about the Librarian's growing obsession with reprimanding the borrower, a person who has no clear identity and seemingly crisscrosses the globe as quickly as a satellite beam. If we look at the end, the play is about a man's search for meaning, faith, and, ultimately, God.

Of course, Lintel is about all of these things and none of them. Part farce, part classroom presentation, the play shifts fluidly from heady historical recordings to humorous soliloquy, delivered by an erudite man whose life has gotten away from him.

Using references to old-fashioned slides of WWI, ancient Hebrew attire, and a particular houseplant that plays an important role in the investigation, Lintel has the thrill of a classic chase. Built like a brick wall, it's a coursing adventure that follows the mysterious Mr. A., an elusive man who checked out a Baedeker's Travel Guide from the Librarian's Dutch library in 1873, and travelled from Holland to Germany to China to New York to Australia, spanning hundreds of years and countless starts and faults.

At Thursday's opening, as thunder clapped across the sky, the Librarian opened a box of scraps that contained evidence of Mr. A.'s travels. The Librarian looked around, took a breath, and began his tale.

"Let us proceed," he said.

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