The Rimers of Eldritch

by Lanford Wilson

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 340

The Rimers of Eldritch is a realistic drama by American Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright and founder of the Off-Off-Broadway theater movement Lanford Wilson, written and produced in 1966. The play is set in Eldritch, a tiny religious, mining town in Missouri, which has a population of around seventy people; all of whom are very conservative and sanctimonious, and like to gossip around.

The plot centers on the murder of Skelly Mannor—a recluse who lived in the outskirts of society and was wrongly accused of raping a young teenage girl named Eva; in fact, he tried to save her, but because of his reputation he was mistaken as a rapist. Thus, the play is also considered a mystery, as Wilson tries to gradually present the resolution of the plot and answer two basic questions: Who murdered Skelly Mannor, and who, in fact, was he?

An interesting element of the play is the fact that is done in reverse order; it opens with the trial for the murder of an anonymous person, who is later revealed to be Skally Mannor, and it isn’t until the very last scene of the play when the audience and the readers finally learn and understand what truly happened.

Wilson incorporates several socially and even economically relevant themes in the play, such as: love, sexuality, crime, gossip, mystery, morality, corruption, justice, the position of women in the society, stereotypes, religion, faith, disability, and the never-ending battle between good and evil. According to several analysts and critics, Wilson managed to present realistic, well-developed, and multidimensional characters, connecting their individual stories into one cohesive, well-structured whole.

Aside from writing the play, Wilson can be credited for directing its first production as well, at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. The play received positive to mixed reviews; some praised Wilson for his exciting and mysterious narrative and his somewhat poetic language, while other criticized his constant time skips. The Rimers of Eldritch received one TV film adaptation in 1972, directed by Davey Marley-Jones and starring Susan Sarandon, Will Hare, and Kate Harrington.

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