James Ridge in Milwaukee
Chamber Theatre's "Underneath the Lintel."
You’ve heard of “the problem play”? You’re about to read “a problem review.”
Writing about the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s exhilarating and potent production of Glen Berger’s Underneath the Lintel, is both a pleasure and a frustrating challenge.
I want to sing its praises and shout from my little molehill: “This play, this production is extraordinary, funny, riveting, moving.” James Ridge delivers the most vibrant, detailed and full-blooded performance I've seen in a long time. Anywhere. Director Michael Wright draws both nuance and full-throated vitality from Berger’s devilishly clever script, a detective story that reaches back in time and joyously grasps at some of the great mysteries of the ages.
But some odysseys are just too rich to spoil.
Here’s what I can tell you.
Ridge is “The Librarian,” and he enters the theater with a fidgety, “you’re probably wondering why I asked you here” conceit. He has a suitcase filled with “Exhibits,” little pieces of evidence that will help him spin his extraordinary tale. It will take him through history, and around the world. Onstage there’s a chalkboard, an audio cassette player, a slide projector.
And also a chair.
He’s here to tell a story. It all started back in Hoofddorp, Holland, where he was a clerk at the local library. Amid the piles of returned books, he discovers a Baedecker travel guide that was overdue. By 113 years. The book launches him on a journey, an investigation of sorts. But his appearance here doesn’t mark the journey’s end. Or offer a definitive answer to the questions posed by that overdue book.
And that’s all you’re going to hear from me about the story.
But be brave, take a risk. Spend 90 minutes with The Librarian. Join him in his travelogue, his engaging history lesson. Take a seat and enjoy the ride.