Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
We first meet Raleigh (Joshua Wills) and May (Lilly Wilton) when they are take a train heading west of Chicago in December 1940. Raleigh is an eager writer and soldier, born in Kentucky, who decides he wants to go to New York City. May is also from Kentucky, though she is suffering through some romantic and career troubles. On Tina Louise Jones' nicely understated set, the two characters are seated next to each other as we watch them try to find some common ground. What's especially interesting about the three separate scenes in Last Train to Nibroc is that they are all vastly different in tone, with the opening sequence being the beginning of what seems like a courtship.
Not to give too much away, but the hoped-for romance between the Raleigh and May hits more than a few obstacles. Thanks to the fine performances by Joshua Wills and Lilly Wilton, the play holds our attention throughout, as the actors negotiate the various bumps in this growing relationship. Joshua Wills' Raleigh is a gentle soul with an endearing disposition. Playwright Arlene Hutton isn't afraid to show all the aspects of these characters, even the ones that can turn ugly and insensitive. Lilly Wilton matches her costar perfectly. May seems to go through a few more ups and downs than Raleigh, and Wilton can be commended for keeping her character both interesting and intriguing. She almost appears to be three different people in the play's trio of scenes (the second and third scenes take place in summer 1942 and spring 1943), simply because May changes drastically throughout the play. Whatever is going on with the character at any given moment, Lilly Wilton remains appealing and is easy to root for, even when May's behavior is at its worst.
Last Train to Nibroc almost feels like an "anti-romantic" tale, simply because the two characters to do more fighting than romancing during the show. However, director Sean Harris keeps the glimmer of a love story alive from beginning to, end and both actors imbue their parts with enormous sensitivity. The play exhibits a disarming nature, as a trip back in time to a simpler way of life and romance.
Last Train to Nibroc, at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford through May 14, 2017. For tickets, please visit www.playhouseonpark.org or call the box office at 860-523-5900.