Play explores secrets and lies

Nanaimo - The Vancouver Island University theatre department presents The Rimers of Eldritch at Malaspina Theatre.

Kyle Thorpe

Kyle Thorpe

By Janina Stajic

People may leave the production of The Rimers of Eldritch wondering what it was all about.

But that’s the point, said Ross Desprez, an instructor for Vancouver Island University’s theatre department and director.

“This is a really challenging play, both in its subject matter, which is mature, and from an acting standpoint,” said Desprez. “My hope is that the performance will stay with our audiences and really make them think about what was going on and how the messages might speak to what’s happening in our own society.”

The play, written in 1966 by Lanford Wilson, revolves around the murder of the town’s hermit.

He’s shot by a citizen of Eldritch who thinks the hermit is attacking a woman. The truth is the hermit was trying to help the young woman who had been sexually assaulted by someone else. The citizens of the town are reluctant to give up their version  and, each in their own way, conspire to cover up what happened.

Rimers refers to a thick frost alluding to the idea that the truth is buried deep under a layer of ice.

It’s a play that requires its actors to dig deep.

“Some of the topics in the play are very emotional – murder, sexual violence, lies, truth. My hope is that it will open people up to really talk about these issues rather than just avoiding them,” said Jessie Smith, a first year theatre student.

Samantha Pawliuk, a second year diploma student, said the material is challenging and the play’s time line is disjointed because of flashbacks between the past and present.

The audience has to rely on the actors to convey where the action is taking place.

Both Meegin Sullivan, a second year theatre student, and Kyle Thorpe, a first year theatre student, feel the play has required them to collaborate and put a lot of care and attention into preparing for the scenes.

“It’s an ensemble piece and there aren’t any real stars. All of us are on stage at the same time and really relying on each other for cues,” said Sullivan. “So we have to work together so that each scene comes together as it should.”

The actors put a lot of thought into each scene particularly the assault scene.

“We’re carefully blocking it out and taking our time. We have to trust each other but we also have to convince the audience that something terrible has just happened,” he said.

The shifting timeline makes the play even more challenging, as does the fact the scene changes are done solely with lighting, rather than with different backdrops and props.

“The lights are critical as they cue the audience to where the actors are, both in terms of the timeline and also in terms of the scene,” says Michelle McAulay, responsible for lighting. “For example, there are a couple of scenes that take place in a forest so we’ve used colour and texture – soft green lights and leaf patterns – to demonstrate the location.”

The costumes are also key.

“An actor on stage without costumes and lights is a mime in the dark,” said Shanae McGladrey, assistant costume designer.

She worked closely with Desprez, to try and realize his vision and also design the costumes to help the audience understand where the characters are in terms of location, people, and the type of town they’re living in.

The play premieres tonight (March 7) 8 p.m. at Malaspina Theatre and runs select nights and times until March 13.

Because of the mature subject matter it’s not recommended for children.

Tickets are $10 for students and seniors/ $12 for adults. For tickets e-mail, or call 250-740-6100.