Capital Fringe Review: ‘Underneath the Lintel’ by Max Johnson

In Underneath the Lintel, Pat O’Brien weaves a complex mythology in an epic, globetrotting quest that spans continents and centuries, delving into the conflict of futility and purpose in life, ultimately answering the meaning of the universe along with the question of God’s existence.

Patrick O'Brien as The Librarian in 'Underneath the Lintel.'
Patrick O’Brien as The Librarian in ‘Underneath the Lintel.’

And all this is done in an hour with one actor.

This remarkably complex and award-winning piece written by Glen Berger somehow captures this magnificent tale all through the lens of one extremely frazzled librarian, dead set on proving the existence of a mythological figure through a series of evidences and visits to far off lands. His obsession, starting with the return of a one hundred and twenty three years overdue book, leads him on a mentally unraveling path fraught with clues and philosophical insights.

The most outstanding aspect to O’Brien’s performance is his precise impreciseness. Everything seems so spontaneous and at times hilariously awkward, yet every movement, twitch, and mumble seem delicately planned and masterfully executed. His passionate, hyperactive storytelling makes it impossible to break attention throughout the engaging piece.

While this piece has incredible depth, it doesn’t feel like intellectual heavy lifting.  All allegories, developments, and plot turns are expertly explained and totally digestible. While Lintel will force you to think, the process will feel more of an easing into a realization rather than a frantic search for meaning.

Underneath the Lintel deserves high praise for each of its aspects. It’s one of the strongest pieces in the Capital Fringe Festival this year. Don’t let this one slip away!


Underneath the Lintel plays through July 28, 2013 at the Goethe Institut- 812 7th Street NW, in Washington, DC. For more information, visit their Capital Fringe Page.


  1. Will ‘underneath the Lintel’ starring David Strathairn be coming to DC or Virginia this year or next? I went to high school with David and would love to see this production.


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