MetroStage Underneath the LintelBy David Siegel • Apr 21st, 2014 • Category: Reviews
MetroStage: (Info) (Web)
Metro Stage, Alexandria, VA
Through May 25th
$50 (Plus Fees)
Reviewed April 19th, 2014
There are times when a script may just “read” better on the page, than as a full-scale, live theatrical production. For this reviewer, Underneath the Lintel (2001), a very early work by Glen Berger, is one of those scripts. The starting point of the play, the mysterious return of a 113 year overdue library book, a Baedeker travel guide, brings initial promise.
With the overdue book begins detective work by an obsessive Dutch librarian, played by Paul Morella. The librarian seeks to find the book’s borrower in order to levy a fine. He chases down clues as if in a television procedural drama but with far less action, beyond the clicking of a slide projector and writings on a chalk board. With an unclaimed dry-cleaning ticket and words scribbled in the margins of the returned library book he takes off on a search that involves crossing two millenniums in historical time travel.
Over the course of the intermission free 90 minutes, the librarian’s search transforms into a spiritual hunt; a metaphysical lecture-like monodrama into the legendary “Wandering Jew” cursed to walk the earth until the Second Coming. The monodrama also delves into how someone can leave a long-lasting mark in life.
Unfortunately, the production is far too long a crafty monologue by a bookish character. Morella does his best to lift the script up into theatrically. We see him dressed in a rumpled ill-fitting brown suit and vest with any number of tics. Morella has a shy, fussy demeanor. He even wears an old-fashioned date-stamper on a chain around his neck. With some self-importance, he claims that every date in history is within the date-stamper. All that is necessary is to move little adjustment wheels.
The setting for Underneath the Lintel is a static physical location; a somewhat shabby, lecture room where the librarian presents his journey’s findings. His lecture is entitled, “An Impressive Presentation of Lovely Evidences.” The stage is strewn with objects including books, playing cards and suitcases. There are also blackboards, a screen for slide projections and a clothes line to pin his “evidences” on. Morella uses all the space available to him to give visual interest to the production. He even uses the chalkboards to nice effect.
As the play begins to end, Morella tidies things up. His librarian character provides some simply stated words of regret for not returning the love of one woman who cared for him. We hear his proposal about the book borrower. We witness his impulsive, exuberant efforts to leave his own mark for all to see. Unfortunately, these seem rather late to unmoor the play from its un-dramatic ways.
At the very end of the production, Morella’s librarian has an unanticipated revelation. The formerly acquiescent librarian no longer moves at a deliberate pace carefully choosing his words. He is full of joy and defiance dancing to himself with hands high in the air accompanied by klezmer music as the lights fade to black. Who had he become?
Many in the audience stood to give the production a standing ovation on the night your reviewer was in attendance.
Photos by Chris Banks
- The Librarian: Paul Morella
Design and Artistic Team
- Director: John Vreeke
- Original Scenic Design: James Kronzer
- Costume Design: Ivania Stack
- Lighting Design/Master Electrician: Alexander Keen
- Sound Design: Robert Garner
- Stage Manager: William E. Cruttenden III
- Stage Manager: Marne Anderson (after 4/29)
Disclaimer: MetroStage provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/10351.
David Siegel is a freelance theater reviewer and features writer whose work appears on ShowBizRadio, in the Connection Newspapers and the Fairfax Times. He is a judge in the Helen Hayes Awards program. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and volunteers with the Arts Council of Fairfax County. David has been associated with theater in the Washington, DC area for nearly 30 years. He served as Board President, Alexandria's American Showcase Theater Company (now Metro Stage) and later with Arlington's American Century Theater as both a member of the Executive Board and as Marketing Director. You can follow David's musings on Twitter @pettynibbler.