Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 1, 2017

Last Train to Nibroc

Playhouse on Park, West Hartford CT
through May 14, 2017
by Barbara Stroup

Photo credit: Curt Henderson
The “romance on a train” theme could be an overworked formula in some hands, but in “Last Train to Nibroc,”playwright Arlene Hutton gives it a layered treatment. Impediments to a straightforward romance present themselves from several directions. On a cross-country train heading east, prim and proper May – plainly dressed and ankles together – resists the down-home friendliness of Raleigh, a medically discharged soldier. He sees potential, but these two are thwarted from several directions. May has developed some restrictive religious standards, the war looms ever present and effects their personal decision-making, and Raleigh’s life has begun to be framed by a medical condition that was the cause of his discharge from the military.

In the space of three acts, the playwright allows the characters of May and Raleigh to gradually emerge and evolve, and both actors are able to effect these changes with a touching humanity. Joshua Willis and Lilly Wilton create nuanced, believable individuals as the characters gradually realize they are dear to each other. As a result, audience members can identify with both Raleigh and May as sympathetic and complex. Weaknesses and strengths are revealed both through the writing and through the actors’ subtle skill at their craft - it becomes impossible not to root for a Hollywood ending, and even to wish to know more of their story.

With a minimal set design, the audience quickly begins to concentrate on the soldier and the girl, their trip homeward to Kentucky, and their hesitant learnings about each other and life. Humor comes from unexpected places, and even grammar mistakes and corrections add sweetness to this couple. Both Wilton and Willis manage a Kentucky accent that never sounds fake or condescendingly exaggerated.

Playhouse on Park continues to create artistic collaborations that work; “Last Train to Nibroc” gives the audience an evening of delightful theatre.