The Herald-Times


THEATER REVIEW: Small town justice: Ivy Tech production debuts at Rose Firebay

By Doris Lynch
H-T Reviewer
November 12, 2012

What happens to morality in a dying coal town? Why would a handsome stranger come and linger, especially when most of the male townies escape at 18 for St. Louis, Des Moines or Chicago? And when murder happens, why does the community believe the town outcast must necessarily be the guilty one?

Paul Daily’s fine direction of Pulitzer Prize-winner Wilson’s play “The Rimers of Eldritch” doesn’t necessarily answer these questions, but like all good theater, it certainly leads the audience members on the chase.

Before the drama opens, one figure lies curled into himself on the bare floor. One by one, the rest of the cast, save one, walks onstage and creates a layered tableau of bodies, some fallen upon each other, resting on chests, backs or legs. A young woman sits clutching a man whose hand rests on another man who lies beside him.

From this stark, almost post-apocalyptic sculpture of the fallen, the play begins. Throughout, Daily’s intriguing staging imparts intensity to the geography of relationships in the small decaying town of Eldritch, Mo.

As judge and preacher, John Boyken’s powerful voice rings out, delivering either the wrath of God or the authority of the law. “Rimers” is not at all linear, and though one of the first scenes is the familiar oath-taking procedure in a courtroom, the script leaps both backward and forward in time.

Utterly believable as the town busybodies are Rachel Goldman as Wilma Atkins and Emily Scott as Martha Truit. Pontificating, moralizing, judging, repeatedly proclaiming that the town has gone to the devil are these two gossipy mavens. Scott and Goldman capture the conversational I’mtellingyousos of the truly powerful in small towns.

In many ways, Wilson’s script can be heard as an edict about evolution in society. The weak, the forgotten, the lame, the psychologically incapacitated — all of these characters become prey to the strong here. With his shaking hands, his voice planted in a low register, David Chervony captures the alienated loneliness of the town’s peeping tom, Skelly Mannor, whose house has been torched by his own neighbors.

Jennifer Smith portrays the lame, easily frightened Eva Jackson as the skittish dreamer who loves autumn with her entire being. She wanders the town woods (cleverly staged by the other actors, limbs extended, frozen in place with their scarves becoming imagined leaves).

As Robert Conklin, Dylan Zimmerman meets the challenge of playing one of Eldritch’s more complex characters, a “good boy” who’s very kind to Eva but who has his own dark side. One of the more whimsical scenes is when Eva and Robert reveal to each other exactly how they fly through the air; Eva just skims over trees barely touching them.

Sasha Belle Newfeld (Cora Groves) succeeds as the town cougar, an abandoned “older” woman of either 34 or 38 who takes up with the young stranger Walter, convincingly portrayed by Jacob Duffy Halbleib. Also interesting to watch onstage were Katherine Nash as the young high school student (Patsy) who likes only boys with cars, and Samantha Tetangco Ocena as Mary Windrod, an old woman with dementia who witnesses things, but who can trust whether she is seeing or dreaming?

Costumes by Jennifer Cox, simple brown homespun dresses and brown T-shirts for the men, gave the feel of an Amana or other religious community but work well for Eldritch, a town with strong Christian leanings.

Lee Cromwell’s music direction intersperses a few hymns that involved the whole cast and also depict the religious center of life here.

Matt Herndon’s clever lighting design performs some magic with an emergency light.

This Ivy Tech student production provided an evening of fine theater, very visual and thought-provoking. Check it out.

If you go

WHO: Ivy Tech student production

WHAT: “The Rimers of Eldritch” by Lanford Wilson

WHERE: Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, Rose Firebay, 122 S. Walnut St., Bloomington

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday

TCKETS: $5 for students and seniors, $15 for others.

Tickets are available for purchase at the Buskirk-Chumley box office, or by visiting

Copyright: 2012

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.