When a murder scandal rattles a small mining town in 1960s rural Missouri, the lives of the seemingly ordinary residents of the sleepy community begin to unravel. Taking place in the middle of a murder trial, “The Rimers of Eldritch” is about much more than a simple — albeit gruesome — crime. The drama department production attempts to capture not only the tension caused by an untimely death in a small community, but also the unanticipated ability of one death to expose people’s true nature.
Assoc. Drama Prof.Doug Grissom chose to direct “The Rimers of Eldritch,” written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson, partly because of what its non-chronological, non-linear narrative achieves. The scenes of the murder trial and the townspeople's lives are fragmented, offering a unique lens through which the compelling internal conflicts of its ensemble of characters are brought into clearer focus.
“On one hand, [the play] is a mystery centering around a murder in a small town,” Grissom said. “However, it’s really about the portrait of the town itself, the secrets, the undercurrents. The story is told in fragments, time jumps back and forth, and there are repeated scenes. It can be challenging for an audience, but that should be part of the attraction.”
Grissom also had the opportunity to cast a large swath of actors — including 17 students.
Fourth-year College student Anne Rowell plays Patsy, a beautiful 16-year-old who, underneath her sweet disposition, is secretly battling personal demons. In preparing for her role, Rowell said she strove to understand the depth and complexity of her character, hoping to "send a message that transcends time."
“The play tells a story where the characters struggle a lot with having something to say but not being heard," Rowell said. "It’s a concept that everybody can relate to in one way or the other.”
Rowell’s character is not the only one struggling to keep her skeletons in the closet. Fourth-year College student Alex Bozicevich plays a lonely, self-doubting young man who struggles with finding a place for himself in a community stained with lies. His character, Robert, is an 18-year-old who was directly involved in the murder.
“[Robert] is very complicated, very much in the middle of what’s going on in the town and in the darkness that is going on," he said. "The major conflict within him is that he can’t find his place in the town, but he’s also not quite ready to leave it. He’s expected to go out into the world, and feeling that pressure resonates with me as a fourth year who’s about to graduate.”
In addition to demanding complex character development from the actors, “The Rimers of Eldritch” also requires intricate set, sound and lighting designs. The technical teams created a staggered set with three different sections, including a road on which characters can walk and a fallen water tower which also acts as the judge’s bench. The entire design was well-crafted and allowed for smooth scene transitions.
“I think this is one of the most unique shows a student can see at U.Va.," Bozicevich said. “Comedy and musicals are great, but you can kind of interchange a lot of those. ‘The Rimers of Eldritch’ is the type of show with a complexity that is very difficult to replicate.”
“The Rimers of Eldritch” will be performed at 8 p.m. Nov. 20-22 in the Ruth Caplin Theatre. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, U.Va. faculty, staff and Alumni Association members and $8 for students. Free tickets are available for University students if reserved in advance.