“Underneath the Lintel” at the Minnesota Fringe Festival: A powerful performance by Pat O’Brien

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Underneath the Lintel is a 2001 play by Glen Berger, presented at the Minnesota Fringe Festival for the second year running by Pat O’Brien, a very accomplished but surprisingly unsung local actor who delivers a powerful performance in the one-man show about a librarian on a quixotic quest to find a very (as in century-plus) deliquent patron.

It’s hard to make heavy stuff work in the Fringe—everyone’s running furiously around from one show to another, and you have a short span of time to really make an impression. It’s no coincidence that light comedy goes over well at the Fringe: by the time you get to a show, sometimes you just want to put your feet up and relax. O’Brien succeeds by immediately going for the throat. His character, after decades of mindless labor, suddenly in his autumn years discovers a grand quest, and over the course of the hour O’Brien works himself from steadfast dedication to a raving fury. It’s quite the transition to watch; few actors command a Fringe stage with such electricity.

The script isn’t perfect—it’s episodic and loose, and you see its Themes and Big Revelations coming a mile away—but it’s a fine showcase for the very considerable talents of this remarkable actor.