Overdue book leads to mystery in ‘Lintel’
By Stephanie Fosnight Regester For Sun-Times Media March 27, 2013 2:42PM
Kristine Thatcher stars as The Librarian in First Folio Theatre's production of "Underneath the Lintel." | Photo by David Rice
‘Underneath the Lintel’
♦ March 30-April 28
♦ First Folio Theatre, Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W. 31st Street, Oak Brook
♦ (630) 986-8067
Updated: March 27, 2013 2:46PM
Glen Berger’s acclaimed 2001 play “Underneath the Lintel,” the tale of a staid Dutch librarian who turns into a globe-trotting sleuth unearthing a mystery thousands of years old, was written for a man. Just one man.
“It’s a 36-page monologue,” said Kristine Thatcher, who plays The Librarian in the new production by Oak Brook’s First Folio Theatre.
Kristine Thatcher is, of course, a woman.
When female actors began showing interest in the multifaceted, emotionally charged role of The Librarian, Berger sat down and rewrote the part for a woman.
“It had been done in Chicago a couple of times with men in the role,” said director Alison C. Vesely. “We came across the female version and thought the idea was just fascinating, and that we’d like to bring it to the Chicago area.”
“I love The Librarian,” Thatcher said. “She’s dogged, she’s bureaucratic, she’s set in her ways. She undergoes a big journey that makes her discover how to live in the moment and how to enjoy life.”
In “Underneath the Lintel,” The Librarian tells the audience of receiving a 113-year-overdue library book in at her workplace in the Netherlands. Inside she finds a 73-year-old dry cleaning ticket for a Chinese laundry in London.
The Librarian’s curiosity gets the better of her and she travels to London, where she exchanges the ticket for a decrepit pair of trousers, which then leads to another clue, and another, and so forth. Layer after layer is peeled away as The Librarian finally begins to piece all of the items together into a whole, and her quest begins to forever transform her own life.
“It touches on all sorts of classical references and historic events,” Vesely said. “It really spans the time of Jesus up to World War II.”
Vesely was delighted that Thatcher agreed to the role. A longtime Chicago area actor with multiple playwriting and acting awards under her belt, Thatcher moved to Lansing, Mich. in 2005 to run the Boarshead Theater. Although the theater closed in 2009 due to the recession, Thatcher has continued to live and work in Michigan, but her Chicago colleagues remember her well.
“She was the first thought we had,” Vesely said. “We thought she would be just wonderful. She had directed the play, as well. She’d seen it from the other side of the table.”
Vesely said she expects the audience to be hanging on every word as they undertake The Librarian’s journey with her.
“It’s really funny in a lot of places, but it’s something that’s going to make you think. It’s going to touch your heart,” she said. “Every moment connects to the next moment and keeps you on the edge of your seat saying, ‘Where is this leading?’ ”
For her part, Thatcher is delighted to be back in Chicago among old friends and colleagues, especially while undertaking such a challenging and rewarding role that even requires mastering a Dutch accent.
“It’s taken over my entire life,” she said. “It’s very moving, and it’s life affirming.”