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Saturday, 22 June 2013 20:51

St. Lou Fringe 2013: 'Underneath the Lintel' is overpowering

Written by Chuck Lavazzi
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St. Lou Fringe 2013: 'Underneath the Lintel' is overpowering
stlfringe.com

Glen Berger’s 2001 one-man play “Underneath the Lintel” is the story of an obsessive Librarian (we never do learn his name) in a small Dutch town whose neatly ordered (if not terribly fulfilling) life is turned upside-down when a copy of a Baedeker travel guide turns up in his “returns” box one day. It’s 123 years overdue, filled with notes in a variety of different languages (yet all, apparently by the same hand), and the borrower is identified in the records only as “A.”

The Librarian’s attempt to track down the mysterious “A.” quickly turns into a globe-trotting manhunt that begins to take on supernatural overtones when it appears that “A.” might not be an ordinary human.

The Librarian tells us his story in a vast flood of monologue, interspersed with presentations of an “impressive presentation of lovely evidences” culled during his hunt—a dry-cleaning ticket, an animal quarantine record, a letter, a photograph, a wax cylinder recording, a pair of tattered trousers. He shows us slides of the places he visited (every one of which had a production of “Les Miserables” running) with appropriate background music. He evens stops the fire hose of ideas and asides now and then to reflect on what it all means to his own life—and to ours.

As performed by veteran film and television actor Pat O’Brien (you may remember his as Mr. Dewey in the TV show “Saved By the Bell”), “Underneath the Lintel” is a completely riveting story. From the moment he appears on stage, O’Brien totally inhabits this eccentric, brilliant, and wildly loquacious character, effortlessly reeling off the many discoveries, insights, and wry digressions as though he were making them up on the spot. It’s a bravura performance, and not just because it’s such a spectacular feat of memorization. Mr. O’Brien’s concentration never wavered and I never, for one moment, felt that I was watching anyone other than the Librarian up there.

“Underneath the Lintel” is, in short, the best thing I’ve seen at the Fringe this year. As I’m writing this, you have two more chances to see this remarkable piece of theatre: tonight (Saturday, June 22) at 10:30 PM and tomorrow (Sunday, June 23) at 2:30 PM. Performances take place in the cabaret space at the Kranzberg Center, 501 North Grand. For more information: stlfringe.com
 

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