There’s a quiet magic that happens in Last Train to Nibroc. It doesn’t occur often, but when it does, it’s a blissful reminder of how transcendental theater can be.
Using only two chairs, a bench, and minimal costuming and sound effects, Homeward Theatre‘s Justin McLachlan and Lena Winter are exceptional actors armed with Arlene Hutton’s smart and endearing script and Scott Sparks’ mindful direction.
McLachlan plays a contemplative Raleigh, a young man discharged from the military in 1940, on a train bound for home in rural Kentucky. Realizing that life is limitless, he’s decided to get off in New York City for a new adventure. But then he meets May (played by a sparkling Winter) and two begin a conversation that will continue over three years.
They argue about books, religion, having gumption, the war, their futures and their hometowns (they discover they’re from the same area in Kentucky). May, a devout Christian woman, dreams of being a missionary, while Raleigh wants to be a writer.
At the end of the first scene, Raleigh asks her to go to New York City with him, to be brave. She counters by agreeing to attend the Nibroc Festival in her hometown of Corbin, Kentucky with him, but only if Raleigh goes home.
The second scene picks up a year and a half later, and all hopes of a great love are dashed. They did not end up together for reasons that often crush nascent love – fear and pride. Both are older and weary with experience and disappointment. But the chemistry remains, and there are still choices that can be made. We just won’t find out what those choices are until the final effervescent scene.
Last Train to Nibroc
by Arlene Hutton
at Fort Fringe – Bedroom
612 L Street NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
Some might overlook Last Train to Nibroc because it sounds like a romance, but that would be a huge mistake. The play is a love story, but it’s also about how humble people at an anxious time in American history deal with personal failures, managing the ache of what could have been, while still respecting that life can change in a moment if you’re risky enough.
Hutton is a brilliant writer, but it’s also how McLachlan portrays a humble and soulful Raleigh to Winter’s May, who has deftly captured both innocence and moxy, that makes this show shine. The two actors have clearly honed their skills, including practicing the final scene on the D.C. Metro just days before opening night. How cool would it have been to have been on that commute?
The playwright has written two more sequels to this story: See Rock City and Gulf View Drive. Let’s hope McLachlan and Winter are up for more.