On Oct. 23, the never-say-die Off-Broadway production of Underneath the Lintel will celebrate its first anniversary at Soho Playhouse.
Glen Berger's one-man drama, about a librarian's attempts to unravel the mystery of an overdue library book—bowed on Oct. 23, 2001. Though business has not always been robust, particularly after the events of Sept. 11, the play has soldiered on, which its producers, Scott Morfee, Dana Matthow and Tom Wirtshafter, steadfastly behind it.
Berger himself was the third actor to play the investigative librarian. David Chandler starred before him and has now returned to the solo piece. T. Ryder Smith created the role in 2001. Randy White directed.
Year No. 2 will bring some good news for the show. The play will be published by Broadway Play Publishing, and productions are lined up for Australia, France, Greece, Seattle, Washington, DC, and Cincinnati.
Berger's playwriting credits include The Birdwatcher (Best Play, 1990 New City Playwrights Festival), Great Men of Science, Nos. 21 & 22 (Best Play, 1998 Ovation Award and L.A. Weekly), Bessemer's Spectacles, This End Up and The Wooden Breeks. He wrote the book and lyrics to A Night in the Old Marketplace, and received a Sloan Foundation grant for his newest musical, On Words and Onwards. Canadian-born director White founded the Live Bait Theatre in Sackville, NB. For tickets, call (212) 239 6200.
In the play, a librarian notices that a book left in the return slot is 123 years overdue. The book would have racked up (according Playbill On-Line's calculations, made at 10 cents a day for roughly 365 days per year for 123 years) approximately $4,489.50 in late fees, but that's of less interest to the protagonist than the story behind its disappearance. He travels to various international cities to piece together the narrative.
The librarian then "rents stage time to present impressive evidence...that many years ago, underneath a lintel, one man told another man to 'shove off.'" Webster's Dictionary defines a lintel as "a horizontal architectural member spanning and usually carrying the load above an opening" — or, a doorway or threshold.
The play was performed at Yale Summer Cabaret in July 1999 as a workshop production. In May 2001, the Actors' Gang in Los Angeles staged a three-week production starring Brian T. Finney, which won the Ovation Awards for Best Play and Best Actor.
—By Robert Simonson
and Kenneth Jones