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Underneath the Lintel
By Macey Levin
While checking books deposited in the overnight slot at the library in Holland where he is employed, the Librarian (he is never given a name) finds a book that is 113 years overdue. Because of his sense of responsibility, he sends a notice for the money owed the library to an address he ferrets out from old records.
As the evening begins, we are offered a lecture relating his experiences using a chalkboard, a slide presentation and a trunk that holds the evidence of his story. Standing in his tattered clothes and scuffed shoes, in need of a shave, he appears to be merely another self-absorbed eccentric with a tale he feels is important to be told.
As he gathers scraps of information, the Librarian, who has never left his small town, traverses the earth in search of answers to the cryptic messages that unfold. His journey reveals truths and opens ageless questions that compel him to go forward. While confronting the cosmic significance of his quest he is forced to reflect on the barren world of his own life. Now, however, he has a reason to go on, not only for the benefit of mankind but for his own sense of being.
T. Ryder Smith stars in this one-man play and stirs the audience with a sensitive and nuanced performance. As the mystery unwinds and becomes more significant, the intensity in Smith's manner deepens and the Librarian's obsession takes on layers of humanity and integrity. Smith is so convincing that when he sheds tears and hides from the audience, we feel uncomfortable to be witnessing such an intimate reaction to life.
This is not performance art where an actor appears in front of an audience and throws out his opinions and attitudes in a frenzy of self-indulgence. It is, rather, a well-written play with a structure, sub-plots and meaningful thematic elements that stimulate reflection and discussion. The Librarian is a fully developed character the audience can understand despite his myriad idiosyncrasies. Berger's play is dramatic literature of the finest import.
Directed by Randy White, Underneath the Lintel draws the audience into the Librarian's life with humor and urgency. The staging of the play is clean and understated, allowing actor and director to use the playwright's words to generate the emotional impact of the plot. White's pacing of the drama builds subtly until the audience embraces the Librarian's cause and is fascinated by his search. His life becomes our concern.
Lauren Helpern's set design utilizes the configuration of the theatre's stage while making it feel bare and unsightly, very much like the Librarian's world and life. The effective lighting design by Tyler Micoleau is dramatic and appropriate in its simplicity.
Underneath the Lintelis a small play confronting profound ideas in a theatrical experience of immeasurable stimulation and satisfaction.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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