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Hours of Operation: Mon - Fri 8:00am - 8:00pm

Ghent Playhouse, Ghent, NY

Last Train to Nibroc, by Arlene Hutton. Directed by Sky Vogel. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.

"I'm not a believer. . ."

        The gentlest play of the season, "Last Train to Nibroc" by Arlene Hutton is gracing the stage of the Ghent Playhouse almost as a celebration of the gentlest season of the year, Spring. The play and the season have a lot in common. Both are in three stages: the abrupt beginning when the sudden warmth bumps into the cold wintry nights - a chilly young maiden finds her space invaded by a warm soldier retired early because of fits he cannot understand; a hot summer night devoted to a festival that has gone flat - the disappointed woman finds it hard to bear the heat of an undefined relationship that is overwhelming in its underwhelming intensity; the early autumn transition when greying leaves are not yet bursting into fall colors - the couple, not a couple, ae coupled by the contrasts they push to overcome. Spring summer's fall. This couple finds it all. If ever two people were destined, against all the odds, that couple are May and Raleigh. It takes them four years to discover love, 1940 to1943. It takes a fire to extinguish any timidity left in their peculiar friendship. It is the vision of true and honest love that finally drives them forward into the next stage of their non-love-affair. There is their winter yet to come and there will be internal warmth to keep them content.  The play is set in December 1940, Summer, 1942 and Spring, 1943, but their personal seasons are as stated above. 

        Elisheva Novella plays May with a sensitive interpretation that grows intense quickly and stays at that keen level until the very end of the play when she becomes a sweet, ripe peach of a person. Think Katherine Hepburn at 22. It is a beautiful growth befitting the role and the play. Clayton Rardon translates the country simplicity of Raleigh into a new language of curious dimensions. He is invariably fascinating, as romantic a figure as Cary Grant might play, but as American-defined as Tom Hanks. Individually they are terrific, but together they are fascinating. 

Elisheva Novella,  Clayton Rardon in scene two; Photo: John Shea

        Director Sky Vogel has poured love into this play. He has literally emptied the pristine jug of this stuff into a simple script and soaked the entire stage with unconventional emotional outpourings. He has given his actors the opportunity toplay reality in the best way possible. Both Novella and Rardon have been allowed to be real in this play. I couldn't find a single moment of "acting." Instead, Vogel has allowed us to eavesdrop on three moments in the character's lives when they met and played their human roles opposite one another. This is exactly what the play requires, and Vogel has understood this and conveyed it to his actors.

Elisheva Novella,  Clayton Rardon in scene one;   Photo: John Shea

        Costume designer Joanne Maurer has, once again, dressed the company appropriately and given us the play's period without making us work to grasp it. The lighting design by Allen Phelps manages to be realistic and fairy-tale-like at the same time which enhances the production immensely. The set, put together by Sam Reilly and Cathy Visscher is effective and beautiful as befitting this play and its atmosphere.

        If you've never seen a play before this is the one you want to begin with. If you are a live theater fan this is one you don't want to miss. You can decide if it's an adult tale or a family journey but whatever you decide you will not regret a moment in this theater, or a dollar spent to be there. This is don't-miss theater! 
+ 05/20/22 +

Last Train to Nibroc plays at the Ghent Playhouse, 6 Town Hall Place in Ghent, New York, through June 5. For tickets and information call 518-  or go their website at www.ghentplayhouse.org.