Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Rimers of Eldritch takes its place among several Wilson plays in which he explores the often violent consequences that attend a relationship to one’s own or to a collective past. All too often, the victims are socially marginal individuals: the physically or mentally handicapped, homosexuals, drug dealers, prostitutes, and various hustlers. Such a theme is evident in Wilson’s first major success, The Madness of Lady Bright (pr. 1964, pb. 1967), a one-act play in which an aging drag queen tries to come to terms with the ravages of time on his body and his friendships (his calls to old friends are met with disconnected numbers). Only “Dial-A-Prayer” offers a human, though taped, contact which can momentarily stave off the collected detritus of the past. In The Gingham Dog (pr. 1968, pb. 1969), a middle-class interracial couple, locked into their separate historical racial identities, divorce because they cannot accommodate the changes in each other that the Civil Rights movement has prompted.

Two other notable plays offer group protagonists, but in these later plays the group is a society of misfits rather than a society against them. Balm in Gilead (pr., pb. 1965) depicts a motley crew of urban misfits, two of whom fall in love. The hope of this union is cut short, however, when Joe is stabbed to death for trying to leave drug dealing; Darlene’s only recourse then is prostitution on the streets. The Hot...

(The entire section is 483 words.)