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Previewed 7 February 2007, Opened 12 February 2007, Closed 31 March 2007 at the Duchess Theatre in London
The British Premiere of Glen Berger's one-man play Underneath the Lintel in London directed by Maria Mileaf and starring Richard Schiff.
Underneath the Lintel is a powerful tour de force, a moving journey of self discovery as one man tries to unpick the mystery of a library book returned after 113 years. With a warm sense of humour, this engaging new play combines an extraordinary performance with an utterly compelling and emotive story.
Would you recognise a miracle if you saw one? For a small town librarian, a man whose life is small, contained and almost perfectly banal, the unexpected arrival of an overdue library book turns his world upside down and unleashes in him a hitherto unknown detective spirit - he simply must find out who returned the book... afterall, they owe the library a very large fine! Thanks to a clue scribbled in the margin and an unclaimed dry-cleaning ticket, the librarian off on a course that spans the globe and the ages, leading to an astonishing conclusion where facts and faith intersect.
Underneath the Lintel in London features Richard Schiff reprising his role as the librarian, in this critically acclaimed production that was originally seen at The George Street Playhouse in New Jersey, USA in 2006. Richard Schiff is best known for his Emmy Award-winning role as White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler on The West Wing. In addition he has appeared in numerous films and, in New York, he founded and served as the Artistic Director of the Manhattan Repertory Theater.
"Richard Schiff gives a virtuoso performance, a dreamer-detective, dogged and mesmerised by this moderately entertaining, pseudo-metaphysical, pseudo-psychological mystery punctuated with showbiz jokes. Ninety minutes of nonstop fantasising delivered without a flaw. Some writers are lucky with their actors." The Sunday Times
"Richard Schiff, whose performance as stroppy Toby was one of the best reasons for watching The West Wing, has chosen a duff play for his West End debut. In Underneath The Lintel, a 90-minute monologue written by American Glen Berger, Schiff plays an intense, humourless, so-dry-he's-desiccated librarian with a mirthless machinegun laugh. When a Baedeker travel guide is returned 113 years overdue, he is determined to track down the guilty borrower. He's not good company, just a nobody trying to make his mark... His worldwide quest is merely an attempt to give meaning to his mean, meaningless life. Travellers' tales rarely travel well. This one has misguided aspirations to be a philosophical thriller. Exclusively for fans of Schiff and The Da Vinci Code." The Mail on Sunday
"No one could accuse Glen Berger's acript of not getting about enough. It is the sort of yarn that will probably appeal to Da Vinci Code enthusiasts and cultural sleuthers. But even if you don't keep patience with this shaggy-dog story to the end (when teh whole thing falls completely to bits), it is hard not to warm to its quirky, determined oddness." The Sunday Telegraph
The writer Glen Berger on writing the play: "All of my plays take a very long time to write, it's always pain and misery to write them. This one, Underneath the Lintel, was a little easier to write. It is, perhaps, a little more straightforward than my other plays. I worked for Fodor's Travel Guides when I was first in New York City - I had to answer the mail. I imagined letters from a fellow talking about restaurants and shops that hadn't been there for 80 years. All my plays are first inspired by music and Underneath the Lintel was inspired particularly by certain klezmer/Yiddish music from the 1920s (and earlier). The 'jaunty melancholy', the 'dancing-despite-it-all' quality it contained, the defiance even - a certain 'finding-joy-despite-all-the-evidence-to-the-contrary' quality in the music compelled me to try to express it as a play."
The New York production of Underneath the Lintel was originally due to open at the Soho Playhouse on 18 September 2001. It didn't happen. 9/11 happened. The Producers invited the local neighbourhood in to see a performance of the show on the 19. The playwright Glen Berger said about the performance that "there were signs up everywhere for missing persons. It was something that Underneath the Lintel touched upon. It felt a good, right, appropriate play to put on at this time." Underneath the Lintel subsequently ran for 450 performances Off-Broadway, won numerous awards and was one of Time Out New York's Top Ten Best Plays of 2001.
"It is a good thing that Plato is dead; because Glen Berger gives the philosopher a run for his money with his drama Underneath The Lintel. The show that at once questions the existence of God, our place in the universe and the importance of library fees, made its debut in Manhattan in the shadow of 9/11. It is currently receiving a soul-shaking revival here at the George Street Playhouse, with Richard Schiff as an inquisitive librarian who nearly discovers the meaning of life by way of an overdue book." The New York Times 22 January 2006 on Underneath the Lintel starring Richard Schiff at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey
Underneath the Lintel in London at the Duchess Theatre previewed from 7 February 2007, opened on 12 February 2007 and closed on 31 March 2007.