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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at the Duchess Theatre, London

By John Nathan

  Richard Schiff/Photo: Tristram Kenton

London is used to American stars taking time out from earning millions to financially slum it on the West End stage. But there is something braver about West Wing star Richard Schiff confronting his well-documented stage phobia with Glen Berger's 90-minute one-man-play.

Schiff plays an unnamed, punctilious Dutch librarian with a life-changing story to tell. In fact, so profound is his story, he hired a hall to lecture anyone who turns up

It all started, he explains, with the anonymous return of an overdue book. Overdue, that is, by 113 years. So offended was this librarian with the flouting of library laws, he makes it his mission to track down the man who returned the book.

The trail takes him to a London launderette, a Chinese post office box, New York and Australia. In each location he finds a clue to the mystery man's identity; from a pair of trousers to a love letter possibly addressed to his mystery book borrower.

With a convoluted logic that makes some sense at the time, but no sense when you think about it, the librarian concludes that the man is the Wandering Jew of Christian myth. This is the Jewish cobbler who, while standing under his lintel, refused to help the cross-bearing Jesus after he stumbled to the ground. Cursed with immortality, the cobbler is condemned to anonymously wander the world.

Berger's 90-minute play has an eccentric, mystery tour charm although director Maria Mileaf resorts to an incongruous use of music to lend some much needed tension.

And despite an accent that is more Scandinavian than Dutch Schiff gives an excellent portrait of a man whose narrow horizons have been broadened.


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