When First Folio Theatre co-founders Alison Vesely and David Rice settled on producing “Underneath the Lintel,” the husband-and-wife team from Clarendon Hills knew they were in for a fun, but difficult run with the acclaimed play.
As a one-person monologue, the concept behind “Underneath the Lintel” is deceptively simple. Vesely didn’t have to search far for her lead performer, because from the very beginning, she had one person in mind — Kristine Thatcher.
“She just has that wonderful, thoughtful quality,” says Vesely, who directs. “She’s very in touch with emotion, and she’s also a thinking actress, which is something required for this story. It’s an amazing journey, and before she was cast, I just kept hearing her voice saying those lines.”
Vesely and her husband are longtime friends of Thatcher, who resides in Lansing, Mich., after a 20-year stint in Chicago.
“It’s been a marathon, but it’s been fascinating,” Thatcher says. “It takes all your strength, but Alison has been a wonderful director. She’s very collaborative and has been a huge help to me. I’ve never done a one-person show, and I have to say, I admire all the people I know that have.”
Thatcher plays a Dutch librarian, a perfectionist whose life is turned upside down when a book is returned 113 years overdue. Intrigued, she determines to find out who returned it. The story follows her on the hunt, which leads to figuring out how to live her life in the moment.
As the play opens, the librarian is poised to share a startling and profound discovery with the audience as lecture guests. The piece was written by Glen Berger as a male role, but when theaters began to adapt it for women, Berger wrote a female lead option.
While having just one person on stage the entire time might seem bland, Vesely believes it’s the exact opposite.
“It’s really a journey, and when you have an actress of this caliber, you want to get sucked into the journey,” Vesely says. “There’s a certain amount of suspense as she leads you step to step. She certainly keeps you interested with the moments of humor, despair and joy. There’s also slides, and all of these elements that she brings to the ‘lecture’ that makes it feel like she’s not giving a lecture at all, but a living, breathing piece of theater.
“She has such a command of her instrument — poise, expression, physical embodiment," Vesely adds. "She’s fascinating to watch.”
See the show
What: One-woman “Underneath the Lintel” stars Kristine Thatcher
Where: First Folio Theatre at Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W. 31st St., Oak Brook
When: Previews from Wednesday, March 27, opening Saturday, March 30, and running through Sunday, April 28
Cost & info: $30-$37, less for students and seniors; 630-986-8067, www.firstfolio.org