×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Underneath the Lintel

In this fascinating and entertaining one-hander by Glen Berger -- which has been making the regional rounds since it bowed Off Broadway in 2001 -- a well-worn travel guide initially checked out 113 years ago is anonymously returned, launching the Librarian's mad and profound quest to find the borrower.

With:
The Librarian - Mark Nelson

Who would have thought the fundamentals of existence would be probed so compellingly by a seemingly insignificant Dutch librarian spurred by the arrival of an incredibly overdue book? In this fascinating and entertaining one-hander by Glen Berger — which has been making the regional rounds since it bowed Off Broadway in 2001 — a well-worn travel guide initially checked out 113 years ago is anonymously returned, launching the Librarian’s mad and profound quest to find the borrower.

We soon realize, in this riveting Long Wharf production, that the simple search is more than it first appears, as it reveals a cosmic puzzle that makes “The Da Vinci Code” seem like a game of hide-and-seek.

On this rainy night, the Librarian has rented a dilapidated, leaking lecture hall (rendered with authentic dismalness by Craig Siebels and lit by Paul Whitaker). In this setting, with slides, audiotapes, a chalkboard and an increasingly feverish narrative, he presents his evidence of “significant scraps … to prove a life … and justify another.”

With an insider’s knowledge of how to maneuver through the world of dusty files and stacks — sort of a “CSI” expert for bureaucracies — the clerk’s clever detective work broadens as we, too, get swept up in his astonishing discoveries. His curiosity turns into an obsession, his research into an odyssey, as he travels the globe following what appears to be a time- as well as land-traveling subject.

The mystery man, the unnamed Librarian eventually suspects, is the mythical Wandering Jew. That’s the cobbler who, legend has it, spurned Jesus from his door on the way to the crucifixion and, in so doing, was condemned to wander the world through time until the Second Coming.

As the clues turn to the fantastical and the evening becomes surreal, the Librarian challenges the aud to take his findings on faith: “Would you recognize a miracle if you saw one?”

But what makes Berger’s play a theatrical miracle of its own is its reach: This is not just a who-did-it mystery but a larger examination of existence, mortality and the indomitable spirit of even the most incidental of men living on the margins of their times.

In this stellar production, skillfully helmed by Eric Ting, Mark Nelson plays the Librarian with a comic, manic intensity that’s both beguiling and anxiety-producing at the same time. Nelson fills his philosophical everyman with passion, regret, resilience, defiance and, finally, a transcendent joy. But he just as cannily reveals the character of the man being pursued, finding an emotional bond between the two.

However, Ting’s thematic touch of having the leaking roof increasingly fill the stage with water — taking the play into an area that evokes Beckett as well as the Bible — dampens the final triumphant moments.

Still, the perf and the play are powerfully human and ultimately sublime.

Underneath the Lintel

Long Wharf Theater Stage II, New Haven, Conn.; 200 seats; $60 top

Production: A Long Wharf Theater presentation of a play in one act by Glen Berger. Directed by Eric Ting.

Creative: Set, Craig Siebels; costumes, Jessica Wegener; lighting, Paul Whitaker; sound, Corrine K. Livingston; original music, William H. Ruth; production stage manager, Charles M. Turner III. Opened May 17, 2006. Reviewed May 18. Runs through June 11. Running time: 1 HOUR, 30 MIN.

Cast: The Librarian - Mark Nelson

More Legit

  • The Play That Goes Wrong review

    BBC Orders Comedy Series Based on ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’

    The BBC has greenlit “The Goes Wrong Show,” a new series based on Mischief Theatre’s popular “The Play That Goes Wrong” stage production about a troupe that puts on disastrous plays. The stage show has transferred from London’s West End to Broadway for a J.J. Abrams-produced version described by Variety as “a broad, silly and [...]

  • By the Way Meet Vera Stark

    Off Broadway Review: 'By the Way, Meet Vera Stark' by Lynn Nottage

    After writing two harrowing Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, “Sweat” and “Ruined,” Lynn Nottage is entitled to have a little fun. But while this revival of her new play, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” walks and talks like a screwball comedy, it has a real brain in its head. Before we get too serious, let’s meet [...]

  • Merrily We Roll AlongRoundabout Theatre CompanyMERRILY

    Off Broadway Review: 'Merrily We Roll Along'

    Like the optimistic youths at the end — or is it the beginning? — of “Merrily We Roll Along,” creatives keep going back to this problematic Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical, re-imagining the show in the hope that the end results will be different this time around. They’re not. But disappointments are often off-set by new [...]

  • My Fair Lady Laura Benanti

    Listen: Laura Benanti on 'My Fair Lady' and the Secret to Her Melania Trump Impersonation

    Laura Benanti is now playing her dream role on Broadway. At the same time, the Tony winner (“Gypsy”) is also playing her toughest part ever. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “It’s the most demanding part I think I’ll probably play,” said Benanti, now appearing as Eliza Doolittle in Lincoln Center Theater’s well-received revival of [...]

  • Hamilton West End Production.

    'Hamilton' Panic Over Mistaken Reports of Gunfire Injures Three in San Francisco

    Three people were injured after mistaken reports of an active shooter at a San Francisco production of “Hamilton” caused attendees to flee the theater. CNN reported that a woman experienced a medical emergency — later determined to be a heart attack — during a scene in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play wherein Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is shot on [...]

  • The American Clock review

    London Theater Review: 'The American Clock'

    Time is money. Money is time. Both come unstuck in “The American Clock.” Arthur Miller’s kaleidoscopic account of the Great Depression, part autobiography, part social history, crawls through the decade after the Wall Street crash, dishing up snapshots of daily life. In the Old Vic’s classy revival, director Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) tunes into the play’s [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Off Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Sea Wall/A Life'

    Comfy? Okay, let’s talk Death: sudden death, painful death, lingering death, accidental death, and whatever other kinds of death happen to come into the receptive minds of playwrights Simon Stephens (“Sea Wall”) and Nick Payne (“A Life”). The writing in these separate monologues — playing together on a double bill at the Public Theater — [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content