Last night we saw the University of Missouri Theatre Department’s production of Lanford Wilson’s “The Rimers of Eldritch.” It is an ensemble play that moves from place to place, person to person, while exploring the lives and personalities of people in a small dying town in the Ozarks.
Written in 1965 and first performed at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1966, it has been portrayed as one of Wilson’s most complicated and darkest plays. The plot revolves around the murder of a local hermit by a woman who thought he was trying to commit a rape when he was trying to stop one.
It is not a linear play, and the actual murder isn’t shown or even alluded to until the very end. Wilson leads us through the town and shows us the characters in bits and pieces, not unlike his earlier play “Balm in Gilead,” where we meet a collection of street people in an all-night diner and hear their stories and dramas in snatches out of time and place.
The production last night was tight, well-done, and held the audience throughout the entire performance. I’m pretty sure that the actors felt a bit of pressure knowing that in the the audience were members of the original company that produced the play over fifty years ago along with a collection of Wilson scholars and students, but if they did, they didn’t show it. It was a fine evening of theatre, and for me, the best production I’ve seen of this play.
Today the conference continues with presentations of papers and workshops. My turn comes tomorrow afternoon.