by Arlene Hutton
Pacific Theatre, 1420 W. 12th Ave.
March 18-April 16
(604) 731-5518

This sweet little romantic two-hander by American playwright Arlene Hutton succeeds better than most of its ilk because of the restrained intelligence of the writing and the lovely performances of its actors. The play takes place over the course of three years during World War Two in three short acts that track the rocky courtship of a young couple from rural Kentucky who ensure that life continues to flourish even in the darkest times.

When Raleigh and May meet on a train heading east from California, he’s a soldier recently discharged because he’s developed epilepsy--”the fits“--and she’s on the rebound from her soldier boyfriend who seems to have “changed” the way so many things have during this confusing time. May is so religious that she’s never even been to the Nibroc Festival in her home town of Corbin. Raleigh is secular, at least as much as a guy can be coming from Appalachia, and wants to go to New York to be a writer. But smitten with May, he‘ll take a detour. The train also carries the bodies of both Nathaniel West and F. Scott Fitzgerald, being taken home for burial. But nothing much really comes of that.

May and Raleigh’s on-again, off-again relationship follows them back home where Raleigh has a hard time adjusting and is even committed to a mental hospital because of his fits. May dreams of being a missionary, flirts with the idea of running off with a preacher, and becomes a school teacher. Against the momentous background of the war the details of their everyday life might seem trivial, but playwright Hutton manages to make us understand that for these two--like for most of us--the day to day life we are actually living is the paramount thing. There’s never any doubt how their relationship will conclude but the way the play gets there is generally delightful and even a little surprising.

Adam Bergquist and Krista Knutsen deliver remarkably accomplished performances for young actors considered apprentices by Pacific Theatre just last year. Both have solid control of their characters and a good deal of range, doing serious and playful, angry, upset, strong and vulnerable without straining. Their hillbilly accents may not be note-perfect but they are consistent and believable. Director Angela Konrad keeps the show moving at a brisk pace, and after a rather static opening act, infuses enough stage action into what is essentially a long conversation to make things visually interesting.

Though there’s not a lot of spectacular scenery along the way, The Last Train to Nibroc is a trip worth taking.

Jerry Wasserman

last updated: Monday, April 11, 2005 9:38 AM
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