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One-Man Epic an Attention-Keeper

Theatre Review



Glen Berger’s UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL, by Three River Theatre and Centr Stage at the Annexe Theatre, Inveresk

 One-person plays are difficult to stage suc­cessfully because they depend on the virtuosity of one actor, who must obey T. S. Eliot's dictum - 1: Hold the audience's attention; 2: Don't lose it; 3: Repeat 1 and 2.

 Stan Gottschalk holds our attention master­fully in this 1 1/4 hour New York play, skillfully directed by Stuart Loone, which starts when a librarian dis­covers a book has been returned after 113 years.

 Some one-person plays use the device of having the actor play numerous roles.  In this one Gottschalk plays only the librarian. But he completes such an amazing journey, in time, in space and in a sense beyond both, that this play assumes the form of an epic.

 It is a remarkable achievement for such a restricted and limited form as the one-person play to embrace such a breadth of places, themes and ideas.

 Most epics involve a journey of the avatar hero who represents and leads a community towards a promised land or empire. In this play Gottschalk trans­forms an obscure li­brarian into an epic hero whose journey leads us towards our own best dreams and highest ideals.

 The set is utilitarian and the lighting and sound minimal, but the actor uses a blackboard and a slide projector to create, almost, other characters on stage.

 Patrons will inevitably compare this play with Mel Gibson's film The Passion Of The Christ, and the play will not suffer by the com­parison.

 Humorous, mysteri­ous and never dull, this is a journey of the soul with the power to trans­form.

 This performance continues at the Annexe Theatre, Inveresk, until Saturday.