Skip to Content (Press Enter)

Uncovering Lintel

Three perspectives on the questions posed by Glen Berger’s “Underneath the Lintel”

Director Steven Robman (center) with actor Arye Gross (right) and Dramaturg Amy Levinson

When I began considering what to write about for this article, I ran some ideas by Steven Robman (Director) and Arye Gross (Actor). It became immediately clear that we all have differing views about what we take away from Underneath the Lintel. What a glorious reminder that every person in this theater will see something in this play that is wholly specific to what we’ve brought into the room.

This is why we do revivals — our collective and individual perspectives shift dependent upon the circumstances of our lives and the state of our world. So, in the spirit of celebrating the power of art to inspire many different viewpoints, I wanted each of us to have a chance to tell you what draws us to this piece. We hope you find something all your own.

What is it about Underneath the Lintel that strikes you as a play to do at this particular moment in time?

Arye Gross: I have been deeply moved by the idea that it is only by exiting the safety of our own world, our own culture, our own belief system that we are able to truly understand ourselves. This man, this librarian, who has never been anywhere or done anything, is suddenly moving through places all over the world in search of answers and it seems to me that now is EXACTLY the time to focus on how our lives are enriched by those who are outside of our own experience. In order to evolve we have to open up the door, open up the border, let the stranger in until they are no longer a stranger. If the point of the exercise, meaning life, is to draw out every ounce of meaning and love and connection, we have to step outside of our tiny little bubble and allow ourselves the joy of seeing life through the perspective of others.

“We have to step outside of our tiny little bubble and allow ourselves the joy of seeing life through the perspective of others.”

–Actor Arye Gross

So of course, with the rampant xenophobia we have been witnessing, this play seems to address the dangers of closing off one’s self to the outside world and the terribly isolating consequences of such an action. It’s also an invigorating challenge for me to take on a play that requires so much of me as an actor. The minute I read it, I knew I had to do it. And the more time I spend with the play, the more that choice is validated. It’s a great play to discover because every place mentioned, every historical figure pointed to leads you down another path of exploration. It’s been great fun uncovering the mysteries contained within this play.


Steven Robman: Psychotherapeutic professionals, spiritual leaders and bartenders will all tell you the same thing: at a certain age, almost all people find themselves taking stock of their lives, wondering if they did anything of value. So many of us wonder if, at the end of the day, we have left a mark on the world when we leave it behind. I’ve been a director for over 40 years, a human for even longer, so it’s my turn, I suppose. As people, husbands, wives, children, parents… what will our legacy be, and will our absence be felt? Our main character doesn’t even consider the question until he sets out on a journey that leads him to realize both his significance in his own story, and his insignificance in the grand scheme of things. This question of one’s legacy, the desire to let the world know “I Was Here,” is both daunting and a call to action. I mean, who doesn’t want to leave their mark on the world and be missed once they’re gone? While this question is applicable at any time, I do think there’s a pressing question right now about how we are going to participate in the lives of our fellow human beings.

“As people, husbands, wives, children, parents… what will our legacy be, and will our absence be felt?”

–Director Steven Robman

As things begin to feel more disjointed in the world, what are we doing to improve or contribute to the world, and will we be remembered for it? And, as Arye said, the language in this play is just irresistible. It is poetry disguised as casual prose and it’s a treat to continually discover all of the subtext contained within.


Amy Levinson: I have been in love with this play since I saw its premiere in 2001, but it holds a much deeper meaning 16 years later. For me, the play’s central question is: will you choose to stay in the safety of the mundane, predictable life you’ve created for yourself, or will you take a leap and “leave the library,” as it were? The overdue book is simply the catalyst that gets the librarian out into the world. What he chooses to do once he’s set out is completely the point. For those of us who live with our noses firmly planted in a book or, in my case, a play, it’s possible to forget that no story is an adequate surrogate for a life lived outside the confines of whatever library we’ve built for ourselves.

“Will you choose to stay in the safety of the mundane, predictable life you’ve created for yourself, or will you take a leap and ‘leave the library,’ as it were?”

– Dramaturg Amy Levinson

In some way, this play is my own version of the overdue library book. It pushes me to ask these huge questions about choices made and whether I’ve played it too safe. My hope is that, after seeing this play, you leave wondering if, given the opportunity, you would follow a passion you find impossible to shake. Quite apart from these questions that are fundamental to Underneath the Lintel, I too find Glen Berger’s language impossible to resist. His quirky phrasing. His matter-of-fact assessment of life’s largest mysteries. “Would you recognize a miracle if you saw one?” It seems to me that it is always a good time to produce a play such as this — one that, at first glance, seems like a simple tale of a journeyman but indeed asks monumental questions about the universe and our place in it.

By Amy Levinson


Comments