Have you ever heard about the play "Last Train to Nibroc" before?
I hadn't, so I didn't know what to expect when I arrived Tuesday at Okoboji Summer Theatre for opening night. I have been reviewing plays and musical performances for nearly 30 years so I realize I have become a theatrical snob of sorts. I expect much too much sometimes. This week's play at OST is one I will not soon forget. It was plainly and simply ... WOW!
Janice Goldberg was lured here from New York City to direct the play written by her good friend and fellow New Yorker Arlene Hutton. Goldberg was recently awarded the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion Award for her work with new plays. She took this new work of Hutton's and turned it into a masterpiece theatrical experience for us as well as the students from Stephens College here to learn theatre this summer.
There are only two members of the cast of "Last Train." Professional actor Courtney Crouse came from Chicago to play Raleigh. Stephens student Shannon Cox portrayed May.
It is a love story about two people and their complicated journey to a romantic relationship prior to and during World War II. Needless to day, with only two characters, they had mega amounts of lines to memorize. However, memorizing perfectly doesn't necessarily lead to success. Crouse and Cox were brilliant in their roles!
They received a much deserved standing ovation at the end of the opening show. Their instinct for timing and playing off each other was amazing to watch. There are several humorous parts of the story line, but it didn't take those of us in the seats more than a few minutes to become involved in their struggles. The story line was compelling and they played it magnificently.
There is a tremendous amount of pressure placed on a story with only two characters. Director Goldberg had major assistance from Scenic Designer Brandon PT Davis. The set was simple, three-dimensional and totally effective. Bravo to Davis!
Another bravo to costume designer Kristin Cook. The purple suit and hat worn by Cox in the first scene were beautiful and screamed 1940. I wonder where they found those perfect shoes. The two characters changed clothes for each of the three scenes and all the attire was vintage early 1940s including the footwear!
Four college students were similarly attired to implement the minor set changes needed between scenes. While none of them spoke a word, their attire and actions added to our realization of what was going on in the story.
There is no intermission and for a very good reason. By the end of the first scene you are so into the story that any intermission would be counter-productive. Be sure to use the facilities before the show begins because, trust me when I say, you are not going to want to leave. You could miss something very important.
"Last Train" teaches us about how little was known about epilepsy back in the 40s, it teaches us about small town Kentucky or Iowa or anywhere where people know everything about each other or at least think they do.
OST teaches us through "Last Train" that live theatre is a wonderfully unique experience. This show is live theatre at its very best. Top caliber acting, directing, scenic design and costumes help tell a poignantly beautiful love story that even the men in the audience responded to without thinking "chick flick" for even a moment. This is a romantic story for both sexes about resilience and love.
"Last Train to Nibroc" is magnificent! It runs through Sunday night. Don't miss it!