The question of truth versus appearance is explored in the Lawrence University theatre arts production of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson’s “The Rimers of Eldritch.”

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Courtroom testimony during a murder trial pits residents of Eldritch against each other. (Photo by Nathan B. Lawrence)

Four performances in Stansbury Theatre are scheduled May 14-16 with an 8 p.m. show each night and an additional 3 p.m. matinee on Saturday, May 16. Tickets, at $15 for adults, $8 for students/seniors, are available through the Lawrence Box Office, 920-832-6749.

An off-Broadway hit that won the Drama Desk Vernon Rice Award, this poetic, haunting 1966 drama chronicles a month in fictional Eldritch, Mo., a one-time prosperous mining town gone to seed by the mid-20th century, when the play is set.

When the town hermit, Skelly Mannor (played by sophomore Jacob Dalton), is murdered by Nelly Windrod (played by freshman Jenny Hanrahan) in uncertain circumstances, the townspeople must ask themselves how such a crime could be committed in their midst. The subsequent trial, presided over by the Judge/Preacher (played by sophomore Kip Hathaway), peels back the layers of Eldritch to reveal an intolerance and religious hypocrisy the townspeople never wanted to see.

Director Kathy Privatt said the play was chosen for production in part because of the unusual way Wilson tells the story.

“The events of the story are offered in a collage format, not linearly,” said Privatt, associate professor of theatre arts and James G. and Ethel M. Barberr Professor of Theatre and Drama. “This technique offers interesting juxtapositions of scenes happening back-to-back or on top of each other, even though they aren’t that way in time.”

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Kip Hathaway as the Preacher delivers a sermon that puts responsibility for a murder on the entire town of Eldritch. (Photo by Nathan B. Lawrence)

In a review, the New York Times praised the way Wilson “used the art of counterpoint to illuminate the people of Eldritch, a town that is itself an entrapment.”

What the Village Voice once called the “exactness and inner logic” of Wilson’s dialogue are also on display in the play, which is as humane as it is incisive.

Privatt cites an interview Wilson gave when the play was first staged as evidence of this fact.

“At one point, the interviewer asked why Wilson wrote about such losers. Wilson got a shocked look on his face and admitted that he’d never thought of them as losers, but as survivors doing whatever they had to, to survive. He admitted that they might be ‘in deep yogurt,’ but fundamentally, they were just humans who wanted to survive,” said Privatt.

The play’s mix of criticism and compassion is reflected by its title. “Rime” refers to hoar frost, a coating of white crystals that is both beautiful and harsh.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.