Flying Machine Theatre Company returns from an extended hiatus with a promising production of Underneath the Lintel, a highly amusing one-man show written by Glen Berger, staged by DramaCircle artistic director and playwright Mark Perry (A Dress for Mona), and starring Flying Machine co-founder Julian "J" Chachula, Jr., Oct. 17-Nov. 2 at Raleigh Charter High School. (Chachula says Flying Machine went on hiatus while the company developed The Meisner Intensive, a rigorous actor's training program.)
"J Chachula shared the script with me this past spring after we finished working on A Dress for Mona," says Mark Perry. "He didn't ask me to direct it right away, but he was interested in having me involved, especially in a dramaturgical role. He was really passionate about the play and had seen it done in New York at the Soho Playhouse a couple of times. It's a new play, first performed as I understand in 2001. Now it seems to be shooting out all over like dandelion seeds."
Perry adds, "I really liked the play from the get-go. It's both funny and meaningful in a remarkably insistent way. As a playwright I marvel at how well crafted it is. Glen Berger has created a masterful dramatic structure beneath an exterior that just gleams with its stream of conscious flow. And the one-man-show is a hard form.
"I decided to direct it," Perry says, "because J asked me to. Even then I had to sleep on it. The play is a bit more defiant than I am (or at least than I aim to be). As it turns out, I have enjoyed directing it very much. It has proved a wonderful opening into the world for us to explore."
Perry says the show's protagonist is "a persnickety Dutch librarian who one day discovers a 113 year overdue book in the overnight return slot. The librarian is driven to pursue the violator and winds up following a trail of clues that take him around the world, opening him up to wonders and experiences he never dreamed of before. The startling conclusion he comes to is what he has now come to Raleigh to share with us."
Underneath the Lintel playwright Gary Berger says, "The story is about how do any of us authenticate our existence against the backdrop of four billion years of Earth history, 13 billion years of the universe — what are we left with? At best, scraps. So it's a comedy."
"The play does a lot of the work," says Mark Perry, "but the props and photographs are so specific they have been challenging to come up with. The play is obviously a magnum opus for J — it is a major commitment not only of memory but of self. He's really doing a bang-up job though."
Perry says, "Our lighting designer is Steve Tell, and our props designer (big job on this show) is Devra Thomas. Martha Buchta is the stage manager and Azadeh Perry is the assistant stage manager. Katja Hill helped with publicity and Wade Dansby designed the graphic image.
"This play is about breaking open the restrictive shells that we all get stuck in," claims Mark Perry. "It's marvelous and life affirming. It opens up floodgates of compassion. And it's a lot of fun."
Flying Machine Theatre Company presents Underneath the Lintel Friday-Saturday, Oct. 17-18, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 19, at 6 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 22-25 and Oct. 29-Nov. 1, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, at 6 p.m. at Raleigh Charter High School, 1111 Haynes St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $12-$15 ($9-$15 in advance). 800/514-ETIX. http://www.flyingmachinetheatre.com/ [inactive 9/04].