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Mark Nash as the Librarian  Photo:Jamien Lundy Forrest
Mark Nash as the Librarian Photo:Jamien Lundy Forrest

Theatre Review: "Underneath the Lintel" at Vermont Stage Company

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Underneath the lintel runs at Vermont Stage Company in the FlynnSpace in Burlington through March 20. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has this review.

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL by Glen Berger is a wonderful one-character play that is perfectly suited to the intimate FlynnSpace. It tells the story of an eccentric Dutch librarian and his pursuit of a fine on a book returned 113 years overdue. His initial fussy annoyance at the book's appearance in the overnight slot gradually turns to an intense international search for the book's history that leads to his own self-discovery.

The script is beautifully written and is sometimes poetic. For instance, the Librarian speaks lovingly of his date stamper saying, "It contains every date there ever was . . . all the trials and joys of history." There's also plenty of humor. At an early point he tells us he indulged in both inconspicuous and conspicuous sulking. As the Librarian makes his way around the globe, he's constantly confronted with depressing productions of the ubiquitous musical "Les Mis".

John Paul Devlin's set and Lauren Glover's lighting invite us to accept the piece as a lecture-demonstration of the evidences of the book's travels. A single platform holds all that is necessary – a blackboard, a suitcase holding various clues, a wooden armchair, a doorway and a screen for a sporadic and entertaining slide presentation. Joel Abbott's sound is very good and the choices of music, whether his or the director's, are excellent.

Artistic Director Mark Nash, who plays the Librarian, is absolutely splendid in the role. He has an intensity of concentration and focus that is riveting. Mr. Nash has the ability to find all the facets of this quirky character and the perfect body language to make the Librarian live.

Director Jim Gaylord has done a fine job of staging and directing the piece. He and Mr. Nash have obviously worked closely together to find all the nuances of this intense character and fascinating script.

By the end of the play we admit the possibility that perhaps miracles do happen. As the Librarian says, "The act of accepting and the act of believing are two very different things." To quote Mr. Gaylord, "Perhaps for all of us life is. . . daily stepping out of the known into the unknown. . . . The key is finding the joy in that." We all want to write in indelible letters, "I was here!"

I first reviewed Mr. Nash in this play in March of 2004. I enjoyed it then and just as much this second time around. For those of you who have not seen Mark Nash in performance, this may be your last opportunity for a while and is a good reason to go. You may not have heard of UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL, but this gem is not to be missed.

On a scale of one to five the Vermont Stage production of UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL gets five ferryboats and an ice-breaker. For North Country Public Radio, I'm Connie Meng.

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