FST’s Underneath the Lintel is far from underwhelming.
By Kay Kipling
You might not expect a one-man show about a librarian who finds in his return slot a very, very overdue book—113 years overdue—to be an intriguing piece of theater. But thanks to playwright Glen Berger’s way of unfolding a tale, and actor Richard McWilliams’ energy and likeability, Underneath the Lintel, now being given a Florida Studio Theatre Stage III production, is just that.
Richard McWilliams in Florida Studio Theatre’s Stage III offering, Underneath the Lintel.
The scene opens on a theater stage cluttered with items ranging from a globe to old lamps and chairs to a chalkboard, the latter of which the Dutch librarian uses to illustrate points from the story he’s telling his audience. Good-spirited but very serious about his work, he has become irresistibly drawn into a long journey because of that overdue book, a Baedeker’s travel guide much used, which leads him to other hints as to whom the long-ago borrower might have been: a Chinese laundry ticket, the sighting of a man with a dog on a German tram, another of the same man on a British estate, often dated decades apart. So drawn into the journey is the mild-mannered librarian, in fact, that he throws away his caution—and his job—on a search to find the truth of the borrower’s identity, crisscrossing the world for more clues and revealing some of his own life story to us as well.
You might be surprised at some of the directions that search takes; without giving too much away, suffice it to say that Underneath the Lintel takes up the myth of the Wandering Jew, a man doomed to live—and roam—forever because of something he did to the suffering Christ on his way to the cross. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of the discoveries made in a mere 75 minutes here (with no intermission), so I won’t reveal more. But the play provides an adept mixture of comedy and drama, with a very strong performance by its sole cast member.
Underneath the Lintel continues through March 23 at the Gompertz Theatre; call 366-9000 or go to floridastudiotheatre.org.