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Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013

Chamber Theatre’s Lintel Is Long Overdue

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All that's really required for solidly entertaining theater is one person and a story. When the right actor is paired with the right script in the right venue, a one-person show can be every bit as dynamic as something with a big cast and a bigger budget. With Glen Berger's Underneath the Lintel,the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre has managed the perfect combination of actor, stage and script once more as C. Michael Wright directs James Ridge. The story of a man on the trail of a long overdue library book is brought to the stage with an endearingly compassionate intellectualism.

Ridge has proven numerous times that he is capable of bringing a towering, sinewy intensity to the stage. Here he's playing an old librarian who isn't intimidating in the least. In pursuing vulnerability, Ridge manages a tiny symphony of neurotic idiosyncrasies that all feel very authentic.

The story is an adventure relayed by a man who isn't exactly the most social creature. One might expect a monologue delivered by such a character to be dull and dry, but Ridge's attention to detail renders an onstage world that is exceedingly easy to sink into for 90 minutes without intermission. The character is delivering the findings of a personal investigation into the nature of the man who returns a library book 113 years overdue. There's passion in his voice and, thanks to an enjoyably sophisticated script, the story that he's relating is a captivating one. That a simple library book can delve into the nature of the universe is enjoyable enough. Ridge's ability to bring it to the stage makes it that much more enjoyable.

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's Underneath the Lintel runs through March 17 at the Broadway Theatre Center's Studio Theatre, 158 N. Broadway. For ticket reservations, call 414-291-7800 or visit chamber-theatre.com.