I also have RH9 running Gnome, but my themes work. I know this is a bit of a basic suggestion, but have you tried doing rpm -qa | grep meta to find out if metacity is installed. Is something like metacity-2.4.34-3 listed? If not then just get the rpm from RH or your install source or somewhere.
If not then I'd start again or spend ages trawling through google to figure it out.