Last Train to Nibroc
Mad Cow Theatre
By Arlene Hutton
Directed by Mark Edward Smith
With Dalton Hedrick and Alexandra Rose Horton
Any able bodied man who wasn’t at war in 1944 was considered weak, and maybe even a traitor. Never mind the exemptions for farmers; it’s a black mark and a shame no matter what. Raleigh (Hedrick) washed out of flight school when the flashing lights made his brain freeze up. Now he’s on the long train ride from LA to Chicago, with the corpse of F. Scott Fitzgerald back in baggage car. But Raleigh has more prospects, and he’s aimed at either to exciting New York City, or back down to his home in rural Kentucky. He meets the shy and religious May (Horton) on the train and they begin a fragile and brittle courtship. Once they reach Chicago, it’s decision time: big city adventure or back to the small town stability. In Act Two we find none of these options worked out. While Raleigh drives a mule, May becomes even more distant and defensive. Even the idea of going to a local festival makes here think of the evils of liquor, dancing and worst off all: missing a tent revival. Raleigh retorts she’s been saved six times this week already and why doesn’t she take a night off and try some actual sinning? By the time they resolve all their lingering neuroses, psychoses, and religious baggage, it’s almost too late to start a life together.
This minimalist two hander challenges the actors to master a large body of material and present on a nearly bare stage with no place to cheat and ask for assistance. Horton’s May is swaddled in her small town faith. Everything revolves around an easily angered God, and even though the Big Guy clearly said “Be Fruitful and multiply” the details are a mystery to this young lady. When the mystery lifts, the details of the process shock her: nudity is pretty much required. Mr. Hendrick plays the genuinely nice guy. True, he comes on strong, but the army did teach him a few things about wearing down an opponent’s defenses. His life may be disappointing, but it’s not empty and a wife would cheer things up. All this evolves on a spare set of benches and a light show to allow some costume changes. Director Smith pulls all our heart strings, and even when this couple is torturing each other with needles and knives, they are very nice about it, and always returned to their basic foundation of faith and love. A bountiful love story, beautifully executed.