Last Train to Nibroc
Reviewed by Jessica Salans
Rubicon Theatre Company
Through May 3
Set in 1940, Arlene Hutton’s play features a army veteran named Raleigh (Erik Odom), who has been discharged from the WWII, we learn, because of “the fits.” He meets May (Lily Nicksay) on a train headed east from California.
May was visiting her fiancé in Los Angeles, is now on the outs with him, and is set on becoming a missionary. Act 1 is coy and sweet. We observe the pair half smiling, teasing, and then all at once delighted upon learning that they grew up mere miles from each other in Kentucky. Raleigh, an aspiring writer, wheedles May, wanting to take her to the Nibroc Festival in their hometown of Corbin, which is Nibroc spelled backwards.
Act 2 takes place in Corbin a year later. Raleigh’s now dons overalls, and something is amiss between the pair; communication has been vacant due to May’s snub of Raleigh the year prior. Raleigh gets worked into such a state, he has an epileptic fit; May flees the scene, and we are left with this image as the play rolls into is Act 3.
Each act is defined by a different bench; the train car, the bus station in Corbin, the porch bench outside May’s house. Katharine Farmer, the youngest artist to direct a Rubicon Mainstage Production at age 21, cultivates brilliant and connected-to-each-other performances from Odom and Nicksay. The actors allow their characters’ newly discovered love to live in each varied moment; their conversation is grounded and charming in its fluidity. Both actors palpably make the very subtle changes which occur within their characters’ relationship as time passes. May evolves from a “weeping willow” to a “prickly blackberry bush” and Raleigh grows from an optimistic, energized youth, to a soft, quietly confidant man. While the story is simple, each exchange between Odom and Nicksay feels somehow complete and authentic. It is a refreshing, lovely story, bursting with heart.
Rubicon Theatre Company; 1006 E Main St, Ventura; Wed., 2 & 7 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.- Sun., 2 p.m.; through May 10. http://www.rubicontheatre.org/