Without clues, there’s no mystery. But what if your mystery story begins with a clue that makes no sense — something so wholly out of place and seemingly impossible that it throws your whole worldview into question? That’s what happens to the Librarian, the lone anonymous hero of Glen Berger’s play Underneath the Lintel. What the Librarian receives is an overdue travel book—113 years overdue. This highly unlikely occurrence in his ordinarily tidy life sends the Librarian off on a great adventure that begins in a small-town library in Holland and ends in London, where he attempts to determine the true identity of the lost borrower of the overdue Baedeker. Premiered in Los Angeles in 2001 at The Actors’ Gang theater, Underneath the Lintel has gone on to widespread acclaim and numerous revivals around the world. The Ensemble Theatre production, which is directed by Jonathan Fox, stars Tim Bagley, one of the top character actors in Los Angeles; he has a role in the upcoming Judd Apatow film This is 40 and hundreds of strong credits, including Dr. Pellagrino, the tactless gynecologist in Knocked Up, Larry on Will & Grace, and Richard Pratt on Lisa Kudrow’s recent series Web Therapy. A gifted comedian who has won awards for his own one-man shows, Bagley told me last week that the Librarian has been his most challenging role to date. Discussing the ins and outs of this unusual play, he offered the following three reasons why people should get out to see Underneath the Lintel, which opens at Ensemble’s Alhecama Theatre (914 Santa Barbara St.) on Thursday, October 13, and runs through Sunday, October 30. For tickets and info, call 965-5400 or visit ensembletheatre.com.
1) You Will Laugh: Bagley said that the Librarian is “very quirky and funny—partly because, being from Holland, he’s a stranger to some extent to the English language, and also because he’s a cerebral, emotional guy who’s clearly out of his comfort zone, but feels compelled to rent an auditorium and explain what he’s been through.”
2) You Will Be Changed: The title, Underneath the Lintel, refers to a threshold experience, a place where you have to choose whether to go out or stay inside. As Bagley put it, “a simple choice like that can change your life.”
3) It Will Get You Thinking: “Would you recognize a miracle if you saw one?” That is the question that’s at the core of Underneath the Lintel. Beginning with that one outrageously overdue book, this sense of mystery runs through the whole play.