Malaspina Theatre’s spring production of The Rimers of Eldritch by Lanford Wilson tells the story of a murder in the small town of Eldritch, where the town outsider is shot and killed when a woman thinks he is attacking a young, crippled girl, while he is actually trying to help her. Ross Desprez directs this murder-mystery with a young cast of mostly first year theatre students, but the cast’s enthusiasm for the production overshadows any inexperience.
With an extremely simple set of different levels of the stage—and no props except a shotgun and a bible—the lighting in the production was nothing short of a work of art. Considering how emotionally dark the play was, the lighting was very bright and vivid in colour. The lighting designer, fourth-year Theatre student Michelle McAulay, did an incredible job of using lights to highlight which characters were in the scene. The scenes were reasonably short, so every character remained on the stage except for Skelly (played by Malaspina Theatre alum James Smart).
Because the actors had the added pressure of remaining on stage even when they were not in the scene, the active actors in the scene had to successfully grasp the audience’s attention. Robert, played by Kyle Thorpe, and Eva, played by Jessie Smith, both of whom are first-year students, did an outstanding job of grasping the audience’s attention, even though the stage was shared with sixteen other actors.
Each actor took their designated roles and made them their own. During the production, Evelyn, played by Samantha Pawliuk, screams at Cora, played by Meegin Sullivan. The frustration and anger portrayed by Pawliuk was captivating, making the audience instantaneously feel for Cora, who was the only honest woman left in Eldritch. While Sullivan emulates kindness through her portrayal, Justine Morrison and Shauna Bevington play Wilma and Martha, the two town gossips who fuel the fire when it comes to spreading rumours about everyone in the town. Bevington and Morrison easily keep the play moving and mysterious with their own pondering, so the audience is forced to wonder what really happened to Skelly.
A special addition to the Malaspina Theatre was Barbara Desprez, the director’s mother, who had the role of Mary, the crazy elderly woman. Desprez was consistently entertaining, making the audience laugh while also having us concerned for her well-being. She had a clever monologue in which she discusses the lives of her past pets, and where in most cases it might drag on, Desprez had the entire audience completely enthralled as to what her next pet was and what she had named it.
Another natural pairing along with Morrison and Bevington was Patsy and Lena, played by Erin Higginbottom and Sarah Sparrow. The two first-year Theatre students act together with ease. Higginbottom played Patsy, the flirty girl too big for Eldritch, while Sparrow portrayed Lena, the teenage girl content in her small town life. The two younger girls give great perspective on the situation in contrast to what Martha and Wilma conjure up in their multiple telephone conversations.
To create the eerie illusion of loneliness and mistrust, there was a constant haze over the stage created by a smoke machine. The smoke machine was a great addition, but the already warm theatre became almost too smokey by the end of the show. Due to the large amount of haze, my attention was drawn from the startling conclusion. Overall, the production went well. The lighting, sound, and cues from Stage Manager Kate Ryan came across as effortless. It was clear from the moment the play started that she was in control and there would be no complications. The Malaspina Theatre’s production of The Rimers of Eldritch was definitely something to see. The unusual set design compared to the fall show (both designed by Brian Ball) was a nice change of pace, giving the actors the chance to step up and really show the audience their acting abilities.