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Interplayers McColm takes one-man librarian drama, adds comedy

Reed McColm plays a Dutch librarian in Interplayers’ production of “Underneath the Lintel.” (Liz Kishimoto)
Reed McColm plays a Dutch librarian in Interplayers’ production of “Underneath the Lintel.” (Liz Kishimoto)

Reed McColm plays the only character in “Underneath the Lintel,” which opens this weekend at Interplayers: a fussy Dutch librarian who finds a book overdue for 113 years in the “returns” bin.

So he embarks on an obsessive search to find this tardy miscreant.

The result is “ ‘The DaVinci Code’ without explosions,” in the words of director Damon Abdallah.

But with a lot more laughs.

“The New York Times called it a drama and I disagree,” said McColm, who is also Interplayers’ artistic director.

“It’s too funny to be a drama. The author himself (Glen Berger) calls it a comedy and I feel vindicated by that.”

It was an off-Broadway hit in 2001 and 2002 starring T. Ryder Smith. Later, Richard Schiff (Toby Ziegler in “The West Wing”) starred in a production in London’s West End. Schiff also performed a radio version for the BBC.

When McColm tackles it, he will certainly be exploring the comic side of the story.

The Librarian (he goes by no other name) commits his whole life to this bizarre obsession. He books auditoriums and presents what he calls his “lovely evidences.”

Berger structures the play as an auditorium presentation, in which the Librarian delivers his story with help from only a chalkboard and a suitcase full of clues.

“You can see him unravel as the evening goes on,” said McColm. “As he commits his whole life to it, he seems awfully sad and lost. As every obsession does, it goes to the extreme.”

This is a short play, totaling only around 90 minutes, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.

“I think it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done as an actor,” said McColm. “It takes a great deal of timing and a great deal of effort.

“And, as in any one-man play, there’s an abundance of lines. And I have to do them with a Dutch accent.”

The story begins at his Dutch library, but the clues take him to London, China, Bonn, New York and Australia. By the end, the Librarian is convinced that he has solved a mystery of Biblical origin.

The New York Times said that the script is full of “charm and erudition.”

“It both encourages faith and challenges faith at the same time,” said McColm.