Underneath the Lintel

Paul Morella shines as The Librarian in this gentle existentialist fable with just a dash of conspiracy theory. A naive provincial librarian in The Netherlands receives a Baedecker’s travel guide in the book drop, only to find that it’s overdue by more than a hundred years. Seeking an explanation for this mysterious return, he assembles a package of clues, which he presents to us as a chalkboard- and slide carousel-illustrated lecture.

The Librarian’s quixotic mission to reveal, to prove, to justify the existence of his quarry, working from no more than “the ephemera of a life” (tram tickets, police reports, laundry receipts) redeems his own life—and perhaps each of ours—from its more usual fate, the insignificance of an abandoned voice recording at a fair, bought and sold for 50 cents.

This thoughtful, spiritual piece also has its comedy: there’s a nice running gag about a certain juggernaut of a French musical that seems to be playing everywhere in the world simultaneously.

In this solo work, Morella does well with the multiple voices that are required to populate The Librarian’s lecture; however, his baseline Dutch dialect wanders a bit. Nevertheless, his engaging, bemused, slightly obsessive Netherlander bureaucrat is a pleasure to watch.

  • Underneath the Lintel, by Glen Berger, directed by John Vreeke, MetroStage, Alexandria, Va.

Best courtesy reminder of the season: The Librarian enters the lecture hall with the house lights still up, straightens his presentation material, then writes on the chalkboard, “TURN OFF CELL PHONES.” He adds, “PLEASE.”