Underneath the Lintel

A night at the theater can be exhilarating. Even magical sometimes.

Last night my wife and I saw a play called Underneath the Lintel at the George Street Playhouse in our town of New Brunswick, NJ. This one-man, one-act play by Glen Berger is a riveting mystery, with humor and pathos, starring Richard Schiff of TV's West Wing (which I have never watched) and many movie roles including Jurassic Park II and The Arrival.

I did not know anything about this show in advance, except that we had heard it was "good." So going in "blind," I had no expectations for the show, but I was looking forward to seeing Schiff who I have enjoyed on the big screen.

It turns out that the play is an intriguing work in the vein of Umberto Eco's the Name of the Rose or Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, both favorites of mine as I am a fan of tales involving ancient mystery, religious myth, and the dogged search for truth.

Schiff, who often plays fussy nebbish types, is excellent in the role of an obsessed librarian whose pursuit of the mystery takes him around the world. Though this modest production is merely a one-act play, it feels epic in scope at times as this little nothing of a man attempts to solve a problem that reaches all the way to the Ultimate Truth.

(The final performances of the limited run are tonight and tomorrow, so if anyone here is close enough to central New Jersey and interested in tickets, check the website atwww.GSPonline.org or call the box office at 732-246-7717.)

In the playbill, there is an essay by the play's author Glen Berger, where he writes about the genesis of the idea for Underneath the Lintel:

"All my plays are first inspired by music and Underneath the Lintel was inspired particularly by certain klezmer Yiddish music...The 'jaunty melancholy,' the 'dancing despite it all' quality it contained, the defiance even, a certain 'finding joy despite all the evidence to the contrary' quality in the music, compelled me to try to express it as a play."

Berger recounts that the first performance of the show was scheduled for September 18, 2001 in New York at the Soho Playhouse. Despite the attacks on the World Trade Center just days before, the show opened to folks living in the Soho neighborhood on September 19. He writes:

"Humanity inevitably finds the strength, despite our mistakes and tragedies, to rebuild, to persevere, to proceed, until death does us in."

I think Berger would agree that the creative spirit within us (and around us) inspires us to sing, to dance, to discover, and to keep going.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 02/04/2006

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