Loudoun Valley High School
Ragged burlap frames the stage of Duke Ellington School of the Arts, inviting the audience into a haunting world of mystery and murder. Secrets lurk in every faded storefront and dilapidated building, corrupting their occupants with unwanted knowledge. Yet the question remains: "Who was killed, and who is to blame for the crime?"
An intimate examination of the inhabitants of a deteriorating Midwestern town, The Rimers of Eldritch originated Off-Broadway in 1966. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson, this production centers around the murder of local hermit Skelly Mannor, gradually leading the audience to piece together the circumstances surrounding his death.
Coby Jackson was completely transformed into Skelly Mannor, the ancient boogeyman of Eldritch. His broken gait, ragged appearance, and animalistic mannerisms immediately set him apart from the rest of the cast. A master of storytelling, Skelly delivered his monologue at the beginning of Act Two with a sincerity that allowed the audience to see past his monstrous appearance.
Eva Jackson (Tatiyana Alvarez) and Robert Conklin (Nathaniel Miles-Mclean) blossomed as they became each other's complete confidant. Their teasing and childish playfulness immediately established their innocence, contrasting with the older members of the town. Eva's wild fantasies captivated Robert, who was stifled by fear of sharing his brother's fate. However, as Robert discovered darkness within himself, he transformed, ultimately committing a truly heinous deed.
Martha Truit (Ira Lindsay) and Wilma Atkins (Shane Royster) perfectly embodied the nosy old women who spend their days on the porches of every small Midwestern town. They hobbled back and forth from their rocking chairs, eagerly relaying the newest town gossip in crotchety character voices.
Although Kathleen Warner could have easily fallen into the stereotype of a superficial teenager, she allowed her vulnerability to shine in the role of red-haired vixen Patsy Johnson. Every so often her judgmental sneer wavered, revealing the deep insecurities of her character. Her brother Josh Johnson (Mitchell Adams) delivered his lines with the same level of confidence, whether he was mercilessly bullying Skelly or fooling around with his girlfriend.
Roy Lightfoot approached the role of a traditional Baptist preacher with an indescribable fervor, spouting Bible verses and leading the ensemble in beautiful Southern hymns such as "Wade in the Water".
The cast worked like a well-oiled machine, accentuating vital moments with subtle choreography and effortlessly transitioning from song to spoken word instantaneously. Although most scenes were only centered on a few actors at a time, the rest of the characters remained on stage, playing through their daily lives in flawless pantomime.
In the spirit of speaking the truth, an important theme in the show, the marketing team created the "MYTRUTH" campaign. This effort empowered young leaders in organizations such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters by inviting them to experience the show as VIP guests.
Duke Ellington's cast of The Rimers of Eldritch tackled this piece with an astonishing level of poise and maturity. They gave themselves to the story, becoming nearly indistinguishable from the characters they played. Nothing was held back in this harrowing masterpiece, leaving the audience with a moral enigma even more complex than that of Skelly Manor's demise.
Stone Bridge High School
In autumn, frost covers everything. Some years, it is so thick that the sun's reflection is blinding, able to hide the decay underneath. This layer of rime is no different than the collective moralism that the town folk of Eldritch use to gild inconvenient truths with comfortable lies. The Rimers of Eldritch is a play as ridden with symbolism as its title. Told in a nonlinear style of narrative, it focuses on the aftermath of a sexual assault and subsequent murder in a small, closely-knit town. But who was assaulted and who was killed? Moreover, who were the perpetrators of the crimes?
Duke Ellington School for the Arts did not have any emotional or physical inhibitions when performing this show. The cast was filled with incredibly talented storytellers who deftly handled the unusual style of play. They left the audience in suspense the entire show and their immense maturity was apparent in the way that they believably and respectfully portrayed even the most shocking scenes.
The Rimers of Eldritch, like Our Town, is very much an ensemble play about life in a town that was once a boomtown and is now desolate. As such, each role is magnified because every character is fighting their own battle. Even so, there were some standout roles.
Skelly Mannor, played by Coby Jackson, was an old cripple who was no more than a pest. Jackson played the role with incredible physicality, relying almost entirely on his crutches to get around for the entire play. Beyond this dedication, he also portrayed Skelly with fantastic believability. The duo of Robert Conklin, played by Nathaniel Miles-McLean, and Eva Jackson, played by Tatiana Alvarez, was also incredibly well done. They showed the delicateness of childhood infatuation and how it could crack in an instant. Another transitory role was Patsy Johnson, played by Kathleen Warner. She was a paragon of teenage angst and wanderlust, showing subtlety in role that could have easily been hyperbolized.
In a play with such serious subject matter, moments of levity were greatly appreciated. Such moments in The Rimers of Eldritch were handled with grace and good timing. Some prominently featured comedic characters included the gossiping old ladies (played by Ira Lindsay and Shane Royster) and Patsy's brother Josh (played by Mitchell Adams). These characters startled laughter out of an audience during an otherwise dark show. It is a testament to the actors and actresses that they were able to do so.
The Rimers of Eldritch has a Gordian plot. It is a dense play filled with unrighteousness both explicitly shown and implied. Duke Ellington School for the Arts tackled this difficult show with the dignity and weight it demanded. The audience was breathless from start to finish.