Friday, August 15, 2014

"Underneath the Lintel" - An Exhilarating Ride to an Unexpected Destination

Randy Kovitz in "Underneath the Lintel"

When I got up from my seat at the Off the Wall Theater, my head was spinning, my heart was thumping, my adrenaline was flowing and I had an inexplicable compulsion to nominate both the playwright and the actor for a Kennedy Center Honors Award.
As Kennywood’s Phantom Revenge is to coaster fans, "Under the Lintel" is to lovers of exhilarating theater.
Probably not for those who like to just sit back and easily digest an evening of light-hearted theatrical fare, this one-character play demands plugging into the story line and concentrating on the literary arabesques and filigree of playwright, Glen Berger’s cleverly-wrought, mental-challenging "existential detective story."
Actor, Randy Kovitz, who also co-directs the play with help from Cameron Knight, portrays a Dutch librarian, an inveterate bureaucrat who breaks out of his mold when he discovers a book that’s more than 100 years overdue in the returns bin.
Like a court prosecutor he stands in front of the audience producing "evidence" he takes out of a worn suitcase, screening photographic slides of his world-crossing quest to find the culprit and posts key words on a blackboard behind him - all to spin one of the strangest narratives imaginable.
The experience left me feeling the opposite of the character in the recently-released sci-fi film "Lucy," in which a young woman accidentally ingests a synthetic drug that allows her to use 100 percent of her brain. Berger’s writing is so brilliant it made me feel that I was tapping into only  a fraction of mine in comparison to his when he wrote the text. As a result, there’s much to ponder in this work, including insights into obsession and the shadowy world of madness.
How Kovitz manages to maneuver in front of an audience for 80 minutes and hold it spellbound with his crisp narrative, adding a good bit of humor with his eccentric idiosyncrasies and without breaking character, missing a line or even once stumbling along the way is mystifying.
Even the title "Under the Lintel" is cleverly woven into the script, first as the catalyst for the introduction to the impalpable mythical figure who propels the play on its adventurous mental journey, then, later, as an important clue to help solidify one’s subjective conclusions inferred by the narrative.
Initially presented at Lawrenceville’s 12 Peers Theater, "Underneath the Lintel" is getting a reprise at Off the Wall Performing Arts Center, 25 W. Main Street in Carnegie, where it will run on August15 and 16 and again on October 2 - 4 and January 29 - 31.
After the performance, when I managed to bow to Kovitz’ genius, he remarked that he recently did the play at a winery near Santa Barbara, California. If his intoxicating presentation had the same effect on that audience as it had on me, it must have been a very sobering experience indeed.
For tickets and other information, phone 1-888-718-4253.

"Underneath the Lintel" in Repertory at the Off the Wall Performing Arts Center

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