“Underneath The Lintel”At New Jewish Theatre Wraps A Mystery Inside Of A Myth Inside Of A Metaphysical Journey

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Glynis Bell as the Librarian, guides us through her journey of discovery in “Under The Lintel” at New Jewish Theatre. Photo: Eric Woolsey

When I was growing up my mother always had one version or another of a houseplant she called a Wandering Jew. Later I became familiar with the mythological character known as the Wandering Jew. Now, in the latest production at New Jewish Theatre, I meet that character again as a Librarian takes us on her quest for a figure she feels may be that famous character that pops up again and again in stories around the globe.

A long, stark classroom setting greets the audience as they enter for “Under The Lintel.” The nervous and somewhat rattled Librarian enters and is disappointed that a larger crowd has not gathered for her lecture as she could only afford to rent the space for one night. Glynis Bell is one of a handful of actresses in our town who could have piqued our interest in this character and the strange story she has to tell. She weaves the facts as she knows them along with her suitcase full of “scraps” that support her sometimes unbelievable story.

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Slides help identify where the Librarian (Glynis Bell) leads us in the New Jewish Theatre production of “Under The Lintel.” Photo: Eric Woolsey

It seems she came across a returned library book that was 113 years overdue- a copy of Baedeker’s Travel Guide. That led her on a journey across several countries in search of this ethereal person and why he (or someone in his family, more than likely) returned this book after all of these years. A dry cleaning ticket used as a bookmark started her on this magical mystery tour and we are treated to each stop and adventure along the way. She feels it may have been this mythical Wandering Jew character- was he real?

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Glynis Bell as the Librarian in “Under The Lintel” at NJT gets excited as the next phase of her mystery becomes apparent. Photo: Eric Woolsey

Through her story telling, off the subject tangents along the way and the eventual outcome of her bizarre search, Bell manages to captivate us and charm us with her tenacity and her metaphysical journey of inner peace and contentment. For that appears to be what drives her with such reckless abandon. The 90 minute or so Glen Berger script meanders a bit and might have been helped by a bit of a cut here or there, but the audience gets so wrapped up in the story that it truly moves- both in pacing and in emotional quality.

Accompanying her from time to time is Will Soll playing a mandolin-like instrument that helps move us from country to country. He blithely strolls just outside the playing space and sometimes just as an off-stage musical accompaniment to the Librarian’s musings. It’s an effective addition to this haunting play.

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Glynis Bell as the Librarian shares another item from her “scraps” that lead her in search of the person who returned a 113 year old overdue book during “Under The Lintel” at New Jewish Theatre. Photo: Eric Woolsey

Lana Pepper has directed with style and a deft hand for bringing out the somewhat prudish qualities of the Librarian while still capturing the enthusiasm she has for what turns out to be her life’s journey. Kyra Bishop has given us that austere room which fits the production perfectly and Michael Sullivan’s lights add just the right touch.

“Under The Lintel” is a quiet and reflective piece of work that fits beautifully into the scheme of this season at the New Jewish Theatre. After the raucous and riotous flavor of “Bad Jews,” “Under The Lintel” is a refreshing change of pace. This touching and poignant production of “Under The Lintel” plays at NJT through February 13th.

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