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BWW Review: LAST TRAIN TO NIBROC at Playhouse On Park

Sometimes love is unpredictable. It may come at the strangest moments, when you least expect it - even when you are at your lowest point or have suffered a recent loss. But one thing is certain, when it does come, it is hard to shake and something worth seeing through. Such is the kind of love on display between the two characters in Arlene Hutton's LAST TRAIN TO NIBROC, currently playing at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford.

LAST TRAIN TO NIBROC is a simple, yet beautiful piece told in three short acts (the play runs an hour and a half with no intermission) that follows two young people from rural Kentucky who happen to meet on a fateful, cross-country train ride during WWII. Raleigh, a would-be soldier recently medically discharged (played by Joshua Wills) and May, a would-be missionary (played by Lilly Walton) are both making their way east after disappointing circumstances in Los Angeles. They find solace in each other and in both their shared Kentucky home and their differing world views. Traveling on the same train are The Remains of Nathaniel West and F. Scott Fitzgerald, a poignant coincidence for Raleigh who dreams of being a writer. Over the course of a couple years we revisit this unlikely couple at moments where their lives intersect, where their shared fates are intertwined, and where they learn how love can be persistent when it is meant to be.

With only two actors, LAST TRAIN TO NIBROC provides a great opportunity for each to demonstrate the complexity and nuance of their respective characters. As Raleigh, Joshua Wills is simple, yet profound as he determinedly follows his dream even as he begins to fall for May. His later scenes are playful, yet conflicted as a man wrapped up in his insecurities about his situation and his frustration with love. As May, Lilly Wilton is bright, yet reserved and her energy is contagious yet controlled. As the play progresses, the audience witnesses May's increasing maturity and growth, while still recognizing the shy, yet determined girl Raleigh first meets on the train.

The production as a whole is simply, yet beautifully staged. Director Sean Harris utilizes the thrust platform and a bench quite well, first with the fateful meeting of Raleigh and May on the train, then as a secluded spot not far from the Nibroc festival, then on May's front porch. He has done a great job staging these three conversations in a way that stays interesting and exciting. Tina Louise Jones' scenic design is simple, yet inspired. The way the same bench is used in all three scenes, but in different ways creates a unifying factor that works quite well. Christopher Bell's lighting and Joel Abbott's sound also work to create the right mood from train sounds to festival lights. Finally, Kate Bunce's costumes are great, especially in the opening scene with Raleigh's uniform and May's period dress.

Overall, Playhouse on Park's LAST TRAIN TO NIBROC is a lovely and touching production, one that stands out for its simplicity and quality. It is genuinely funny and beautifully portrays the stories of these two souls who have not always been dealt a great hand in life, but find comfort and love in each other.

LAST TRAIN TO NIBROC runs at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT through May 14th. For more information, call 860-523-5900 ext. 10 or visit Playhouse on Park is located at 244 Park Road, West Hartford, CT 06119

All photos: Joshua Wills as Raleigh and Lilly Wilton as May (Credit - Curt Henderson)

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From This Author Joseph Harrison