Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Demanding "Rimers of Eldritch" in Folsom

Lanford Wilson’s “The Rimers of Eldritch,” now staged in Folsom by The Falcon’s Eye Theatre of Folsom College, can best be described by what it’s not. It doesn’t proceed chronologically, with occasional flashbacks, from beginning to end. Instead it seems like something written before the Big Bang, when God created time and space.

It starts with a murder trial, but we don’t know who’s on trial or who was murdered until its ironic conclusion. It seems to roll forwards and backwards, so that we feel we’ve been parachuted into a strange community as we overhear references to people we don’t know and have to piece out the connections. The setting is Eldritch, a decaying former coal town, long ago abandoned by miners who despoiled the land and left it without an economy.

The heavy Southern accents suggest a region, but you don’t find out that we’re in Missouri unless you check the playbill. But there is no Eldritch in Missouri. In fact the word “eldritch” means weird, ghostly, and downright creepy–just like the fictional town itself. The setting, though, may be a reflection of Wilson’s birthplace: Lebanon, Missouri.

As we piece together the jigsaw puzzle of the plot, we come to know the inhabitants of this Limbo as they cope with their unspoken despair. Even the title plays head games with the audience. Late in the play we hear a discussion of “rime,” or hoarfrost, granular ice that encrusts twigs and windows. Thus “rimer” suggests a metaphor, reflecting the distorted vision of the characters, who see a world through a “rimed” window.

Framed by a chorus of gossips uttering platitudes of pious indignation, the various inhabitants appear. There’s Robert Johnson (Nick Gailbreath), 18, cursed by the wicked reputation of his older brother, who was killed in an auto accident. His companion is Eva Jackson (Michelle Murphy), 14, a crippled girl who teases him with his nickname, Driver Jr. Her mother, Evelyn (Delaney Eldridge-Dunn) suspects a sexual relationship.

Then there’s Nelly Windrod (Adrienne Sher), middle aged and tough, who looks after her mother, Mary (Maggie Adair Upton), skirting the edge of senility. In a fey moment Mary takes us on a tour of her “garden,” where she’s carefully buried her late pets, from dogs to goldfish, and announces the exact date of each burial.

An added key to the plot is Skelly Mannor (Rodrigo Breton), town hermit and pariah, suspected of being a peeping Tom. And among the few stable townsfolk are Cora Groves (Laura Kaya) and her young lover, Walter (Matthew Canty), targets for disapprobation. (See picture insert.)

A mixture of students and professionals, the cast is solid and convincing. Among the many highlights are Upton’s Mary, very real as she navigates a delicate path between normalcy and a failing mind. Also noteworthy is Lew Rooker, alternating between a preacher and a judge. In both roles he convinces us that he’s a paragon of his profession, though later allowing us a glimpse of his characters’ human weaknesses.

Director David Harris and Scene Designer Jonathan Williams orchestrate a fast-paced and authoritative theater experience in the Falcon’s Eye temporary home at Vista Del Lago High School’s Studio Theatre. Meanwhile the company awaits the construction of its permanent home, anticipated for 2010.

“The Rimers of Eldritch” continues through November 23 at 1970 Broadstone Parkway in Folsom. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $15 general, $10 for students and seniors. Call 916-608-6760 or e-mail

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