Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Local Train to Nibroc

Last Train to Nibroc -- Playhouse on Park -- Thru May 14

Lilly Wilton and Joshua Willis.
Photo by Curt Henderson

We are so used to hyper-editing in films and television shows, those fast cuts that we often comprehend almost subliminally, as well as the rat-a-tat dialogue that many playwrights assault us with, that settling down to watch a play that unfolds in less than warp speed may at first be a bit discomforting. We want things to happen…now…and then other things to happen right on their heels. Our theater-going metabolism demands fast food, our mental clocks require we always ride the express. Well, if you want to enjoy Last Train to Nibroc, a two-hander by Arlene Hutton that recently opened at Playhouse on Park, you’re just going to have to cool your jets a bit and accept that a local train will eventually get to its destination.

Set initially on a train traveling from Los Angeles in 1940 and then in rural Kentucky in ’42 and ‘43, Nibroc chronicles the growing relationship between a somewhat uptight May (Lilly Wilton) and Raleigh (Joshua Willis). She is returning from California after an unsuccessful visit with her fiancĂ© and he has just been discharged from the service for medical reasons. They strike up a tentative conversation that reveals, among other things, that two corpses are heading East with them, those of Nathaniel West and F. Scott Fitzgerald, both tucked away in their caskets in the baggage car, an interesting historical tidbit that Hutton really doesn’t do much with.

The three scenes that comprise the play (there is no intermission) can be viewed as a When Harry Met Sally in slow-motion. Thus, the heart of the play is the interaction between May and Raleigh and the conflict can be found in whether or not they will eventually realize that they are soul-mates and do something about it. It’s a tried and true formula that never ceases to please.

This is basic theater, as the sparse yet utilitarian set by Tina Louise Jones suggests, and your response will be dictated by whether or not you care about May and Raleigh and want them to be together, which means that it all hinges on the actors in these two roles. As directed by Sean Harris, Wilton and Willis deliver the needed chemistry, though there are moments when you sense that lines are being spoken rather than characters are interacting, but I sense this will disappear during the show’s run.

It takes awhile but, yes, you eventually get to care about May and Raleigh, and this culminates in the delightful third scene built around a misunderstanding on May’s part of Raleigh’s illness, a scene that Harris has blocked engagingly. It is also here that the actors seem to completely embrace their roles.

This production, which runs through May 14, will definitely mature in nuance and subtlety with each performance, and the classic formula of boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-wins-girl, is in our DNA. We’ve saw it – Oops, seen it -- a hundred times before and it still resonates. In essence, Last Train to Nibroc is a gentle unveiling of two hearts that eventually find that they beat as one. What’s not to like?
Last Train to Nibroc runs through May 14. For tickets or more information call 860-523-5900, X10, or go to

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