Kerry Sorci

Eloise and Ray tells the tale of a small-town girl who has just spent several days sitting in a ditch. Eloise has nowhere else to go: Her father has kicked her out, and she's waiting for her much older boyfriend to get back from a trip out of town, but it's three full days before he returns. And so she sits. By the time her boyfriend, Ray, returns she's in bad shape, hungry, thirsty, a little deranged, and rightfully pissed that her boyfriend, well, ditched her.

The tale of Eloise and Ray is told in flashback, with voiceover narration and video work supplementing a disjointed storyline. The story, insofar as there is one, is about Eloise, a girl near-paralyzed by the confines of a small town; her mother's dead, her strict father has taken up with a manipulative floozy of an actress (Christy Drogosch), and her beloved older brother skipped town long ago. Eloise seems remarkably well balanced, all things considered—if she's convinced herself that she can communicate sonically with her distant brother by playing him songs on her guitar, well, who can really blame the kid.

Ellie Johnson gives a remarkably grounded and lucid performance as Eloise, despite the challenges posed by a fever dream of a script that could charitably be called "lyrical" (less charitably: self-indulgent). She's particularly strong as a teenage seductress, flirting with Ray in the grocery store where she's a cashier—she strikes the perfect balance of coyness, bravado, and dangerous innocence. The casting of Rusty Tennant as Ray, though, does Johnson's good work a disservice: In his better moments he endows Ray with a canny native intelligence, but he gets scenery stuck in his teeth in the show's more poetic scenes, coming across as some unholy combination of Larry the Cable Guy and Lennie from Of Mice and Men.

Stephanie Fleischmann's script can be trying at times, but there are also moments of real insight: Eloise experiments with identity, weighing which parts of herself are worth keeping, learning that ultimately, she's the only one she can count on. It's a well-paced and methodical self-discovery process, rendered with diligence if not brilliance in Integrity's capable production.