The Rimers of Eldritch

Lanford Wilson`s major hits are the plays he wrote about the Midwest, notably The Rimers of Eldritch and the Talley Trilogy including Talley and SonTalley`s Folly, and Fifth of JulyTalley`s Folly brought him the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for drama, but it was The Rimers of Eldritch that helped him to move beyond the off-off-Broadway.

First produced at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club on July 13, 1966 and directed by the playwright himself on a set of simple platforms, The Rimers of Eldritch was Wilson’s documentation of his teenage years in the 1950s in Ozark, Missouri.  Wilson wanted to give voice to the people he knew and grew up with, and wanted to depict rural characters as intelligent, complicated human beings, not as the stereotypical hayseeds he had seen in film and popular culture.  The play explores a small-town murder, but is revealed in a lyrical, non-linear, choral tone-poem of Ozark voices, moving back and forth in time, before and after the murder, until the dark truth of what happened is exposed, shining light on a corrupted and haunted past.

Under the producing team of Theatre 1967, which consisted of Pulitzer prize-winning playwright, Edward Albee and his partners, Richard Barr and Clinton Wilder, The Rimers of Eldritch was given a fully professional, union production at the Cherry Lane Theatre on February 20, 1967, under the director of Michael Kahn.  Wilson was a protégé of Albee, and was a member of Albee’s Playwrights Unit, a collection of off-off-Broadway playwrights that Albee and Barr had discovered in venues like the Caffé Cino, La MaMa, Judson Poets Theatre, and Theatre Genesis. The Rimers of Eldritch ran for 32 performances.  It was the first time an off-off-Broadway playwright moved from the non-union, non-professional work of coterie theatre, to the glare of the professional theatre, with full reviews, and attention by the New York Theatre.