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      Underneath the Lintel
    Seek and you shall fine

    A librarian's personal obsession with tracking down the miscreant who returned a book 123 years overdue leads to discoveries of cosmic significance, starting with the offender's pants, in the funny and profound "Underneath the Lintel."


    You really have to see "Underneath the Lintel."

    And that's not just me talking — there's also a certain Dutchman with something urgent to tell you and has been trying to get your attention for some time. You would have seen the posters for this very important event if the Dutchman involved were not, well, a librarian.

    Written by: Glen Berger.
    Directed by: Randy White.
    Cast: T. Ryder Smith.

    Related links: Official site
    Soho Playhouse
    15 Vandam St. west of 6th Ave.
    Previews start: Oct. 13, 2001
    Opens: Oct. 23, 2001
    Tues.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sat., Sun. 3 p.m.
    (212) 239-6200
    Tickets: $40

    "I put up signs," insists the mild-mannered gentleman in his frayed tweed jacket, lumpy sweater vest and conservative tie. "But as soon as I turned away they were covered with other signs."

    "Mine were nicer," he laments

    The mystery of "Underneath the Lintel" starts with the most shocking of library offenses: a book returned 123 years overdue. And returned in the overnight slot, no less! The Librarian sets out to levy the fine of his career, but the trail leads him on a worldwide pursuit toward a conclusion that he would never have imagined.

    Which is why he's arrived in New York with a suitcase full of clues ranging from ancient documents to the suspect's pants, desperate to tell his story.

    A few years ago, playwright Glen Berger presented another terrific, understatedly funny show at the Currican Theater called "Great Men of Science Nos. 21 and 22," about two fictional 18th-century scientists who pursued their somewhat misguided research more out of obsession than actual talent. The Librarian of "Underneath the Lintel" is a similar character. Never a leading intellect, even within his little town, he has nonetheless pursued his self-appointed mission singlemindedly, maybe because it's his destiny. He is one of the meek who knows he won't inherit the earth but has somehow found one tiny corner of it that he can call his own because nobody else has thought to go there.

    There's a lot of humor in "Underneath the Lintel," much of it related to the repeated shock of discovery by the milquetoasty protagonist, who's played to perfection by T. Ryder Smith. He recounts his cunning plan to get time off of work to continue his investigation by calling in sick, even though he isn't; nobody has ever thought to do this before, he says with amazement, or at least no librarian has.

    If the play constantly pokes fun at its librarian hero, it does so with total affection. Underneath the humor is the playwright's vision of humanity, if it's not too grandiose to call it that. What Berger finds in these characters of his — the obsessed scientists in the earlier play, the world-traveling librarian here — is a passion for life that they pursue, even to the point of self-destruction, because our drive to discover and to leave even the smallest mark on the world is what defines us as people. The play itself, like its protagonist, starts out modest and amusing and winds up discovering meaning of cosmic significance.

    OCTOBER 26, 2001

    Reader comments on Underneath the Lintel:

  • Underneath the Lintel   from ARG, Oct 28, 2001
  • Underneath the Lintel   from Roberta, Feb 1, 2002
  • Amazing Experience!   from Victoria, Mar 17, 2002
  • T. Ryder Smith   from Fredrik, Jan 17, 2003
  • Re: T. Ryder Smith   from John Sparks, Feb 6, 2003
  • Re: T. Ryder Smith   from Marilys Ernst, Jul 4, 2003
  • T. Ryder Smith   from Jon, Aug 17, 2003
  • Re: T. Ryder Smith   from S, Sep 14, 2004
  • Richard Schiff in UTL at George St NJ   from Diane, Feb 2, 2006
  • Holy Interstitial   from HR, Feb 17, 2006
  • Saw the play in Sarasota   from babsie, Apr 24, 2008

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