AISLE SAY San Francisco


by Glen Berger
Directed by Carey Perloff
Presented by and at the American Conservatory Theater
415 Geary St. at Mason, San Francisco / (415) 749-2228

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Checking books that have been returned overnight, an unassuming Dutch librarian found an annotated travel guide that was 113 years overdue.

Curious about who had had it all that time, he set off on a quest that took him to far off places in "Underneath the Lintel" by Glen Berger. Presented by American Conservatory Theater and directed by its artistic director, Carey Perloff, this one-man, one-act, 90-minute play features David Strathairn as the character known only as the Librarian.

As the play begins in the here and now, the somewhat rumpled Librarian (costume by Jessie Amoroso) apparently is in an old theater (versatile set by Nina Ball) giving a lecture about his discoveries. One by one he reveals the bits of evidence that led him on his trail of discovery, starting in 1986.

In the book, for example, was a 1913 receipt from a London dry cleaner. Other places from around the world cropped up. Slides and projections by Alexander V. Nichols, who also designed the lighting, help to illustrate some of his points. Sound by Jake Rodriguez also enhances the production.

Along the line, he began to suspect that his elusive subject is none other than the legendary Wandering Jew. After losing his library job because he was gone so long on his travels, he's become rootless, similar to the Wandering Jew, albeit for a different reason.

Despite the elements of mystery in this tale, it tends to drag. Perhaps it needs cutting. Perhaps Strathairn needs to add depth to his performance or be directed to pace it differently.

The end result is a moderately interesting evening of theater.

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