Elisheva Novella and Clayton Rardon star in ‘Last Train to Nibroc’ at the Ghent Playhouse. Photo: John Shea

Last train to Nibroc
The Ghent Playhouse, Ghent, New York
Written by Arlene Hutton, directed by Sky Vogel

“I’m not a believer…”

The sweetest piece of the season, Arlene Hutton’s ‘Last Train to Nibroc’ graces the stage at the Ghent Playhouse almost as a celebration of the sweetest season of the year, spring. The game and the seasons have a lot in common. In spring, the abrupt start where sudden warmth meets cold winter nights, a chilly young girl finds herself invaded by a warm-hearted soldier, withdrawn early due to fits he cannot comprehend. A hot summer night is about a festival that has died down and the disappointed wife struggles to bear the heat of an indefinite relationship that is overwhelming in its disappointing intensity. The transition to early fall, when the graying leaves have yet to burst into fall colors, couples the couple by the contrasts they push to overcome.

If ever two people were destined to be together, against all odds, it was May and Raleigh. It takes them four years to discover love, 1940-1943. It takes a fire to extinguish any shyness left in their special friendship. It is the vision of true and honest love that ultimately pushes them to the next stage of their unlove. There is their winter yet to come, and there will be an internal warmth to keep them content. The play is set in December 1940, Summer 1942, and Spring 1943, but their personal seasons are as shown above.

Elisheva Novella and Clayton Rardon star in “Last Train to Nibroc.” Photo courtesy of Ghent Playhouse Facebook Page

Elisheva Novella plays May with a sensitive rendition that escalates quickly and stays at that high pitch until the very end, when she becomes a sweet, ripe peach of a person. Think Katherine Hepburn at 22. It’s a nice growth that suits the role and the part. Clayton Rardon translates Raleigh’s country simplicity into a new language of curious dimensions. He’s invariably fascinating, as romantic as Cary Grant could play, but as definite American as Tom Hanks. Individually they are great, but together they are fascinating.

Director Sky Vogel poured love into this piece. He literally emptied the immaculate jug of this stuff into a straightforward script and soaked the entire scene with unconventional emotional outpourings. He gave his actors the opportunity to play reality in the best possible way. Novella and Rardon were allowed to be real in this play. I couldn’t find a single moment to “play”. Instead, Vogel allowed us to listen to three moments in the character’s life. This is exactly what the play demands, and Vogel understood this and passed it on to his actors.

Elisheva Novella and Clayton Rardon star in “Last Train to Nibroc.” Photo courtesy of Ghent Playhouse Facebook Page

Costume designer Joanne Maurer once again dressed the troupe appropriately and gave us the era of the play without making us work to apprehend it. Allen Phelps’ lighting design manages to be both realistic and fairytale-like, which greatly enhances the production. The decor, set up by Sam Reilly and Cathy Visscher is efficient and beautiful as befits this room and its atmosphere.

If you’ve never seen a room before, this is the one you want to start with. If you are a live theater fan, this is the one you don’t want to miss. You can decide if this is a grown-up tale or a family trip, but whatever you decide, you won’t regret a moment in this theater, or a dollar spent to be there. This is the theater not to be missed!

“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 518-392-6264 or visit the Playhouse website.