|Garret Patton as Raleigh and Kelly Patton as May in Last Train to Nibroc.
Photo courtesy of the Little Colonel Playhouse.
By Arlene Hutton
Directed by Martha Frazier
Reviewed by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2011, Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Watching two people talk sounds dull, but it can be enthralling. For a good example of what I mean, check out Last Train to Nibroc, which just opened at the Little Colonel Playhouse. In the first scene of this two-character comedy-drama, the actors deliver all of the dialogue while sitting in train seats – physically confined together in tight circumstances with little opportunity to move at all. For it to work, the writing must be detailed and penetrating, and the players must be fully engaged in the moment. Otherwise, it can be a dreadful bore.
Fortunately, this production gets it right, with performances that seem to live and breathe the lives of these two characters with a fullness of feeling and subtlety that engages the audience. It is not a grand story, and not much happens along the way – three simple scenes that occur over a couple of years in the early 1940s – but the development of a prickly friendship that is trying to become a romance is examined in such careful, observant detail and rendered with a keen eye for the conflicting emotions contained therein that the final result arrives with unexpected pleasure.
The play is a chamber piece, a duet for man and woman. Raleigh is fresh out of the army in 1940, discharged for medical reasons just before the United States’ entry into World War II. He is confident and forward in his interest in May, a young woman he encounters on a train reading Magnificent Obsession. The choice of reading material for the character is specific to the moment in time but also provides a thoughtful contrast to the understated development of this relationship. May is reticent and wary of the brash young man, and most of the character’s actions are frustrating to witness; there is such a tendency to act against her own best interest and a lack of understanding of her own heart.
It is a fascinating character study, and the script delivers dialogue that is certain of these characters’ identities, with a rich sense of time and place. Garrett and Kelly Patton, husband and wife in real life, do intelligent and well-observed work here, beautifully elucidating the depth of these characters under the wise direction of Martha Frazier. It is an intimate piece, with minimal blocking and sets – a perfect fit for the cozy stage of the Little Colonel Playhouse.
As strong as the work is, the energy did flag ever so slightly in the third scene, but the actors rallied to bring home the satisfying final moments in good form. This is high-quality work in an old-fashioned vein of storytelling that is ideal for this company and its very supportive audience.
Last Train to Nibroc
December 1-11, 2011
Little Colonel Playhouse
302 Mount Mercy Drive
Crestwood, KY 40014