by Meghan D'Souza
Iowa City - World War Two. We hear stories from our relatives all the time. It was a time when women were encouraged to work in factories. A time when U.S. citizens learned to live on rations. Dreamwell's production of Last Train to Nibroc follows a different type of story during that war involving a young man and woman struggling on the home front.
While I found the dialogue repetitive at times, the play in its entirety was enjoyable, thought-provoking and, in Dreamwell's true nature, certainly taboo. May, played by the talented Ottavia DeLuca, found herself newly single and the victim of shattered dreams. To be single at her age, the early 20's in the 1940s, certainly did make a lady an old maid in that time. She was disappointed in her former fiancé and upset that her plan to become a missionary could not become a reality, now that she was not getting married.
Raleigh, played by K. Michael Moore, was facing a harsh reality of his own. He had been discharged by the army due to an illness. Specifically, epilepsy, a misunderstood illness that scared everyone in that era. He felt shame and guilt, wanting to serve his country and not being allowed to do so. He felt that people didn't understand why he wasn't overseas like their brothers and sons were.
Though simple, the set was creatively designed to accommodate the three scenes that make up this play. With dark blue walls covered in posters circa the 1940s outlining the stage, Raleigh and May met on a train, so they sat on a cushioned bench, with the whole stage lit.
To change to the next scene, which took place just over a year later on a park bench, they simply removed the cushions from the bench, but kept the lighting the same. For the final scene, they added a chair and tossed a blanket and pillows on the bench to give the feel of a front porch.
The storytelling was helped along by the costumes Moore and DeLuca wore. In Scene One, they donned an army uniform and a typical 1940s dress. In Scene Two, back in Kentucky where they're from, Moore had changed into overalls and a button-down shirt and DeLuca added gloves and a hat to her dress. Ladies never went outside without gloves and a hat in the '40s. Scene Three took place on May's porch after dinner. Here, Moore wore a shirt and tie with khakis. May had a different dress on with socks and white shoes, but no hat or gloves.
The most important part of the play was the acting and it was splendid. The whole 80 minutes was on the shoulders of Moore and DeLuca and they carried it effortlessly. They two took us through three different years. We watched them grow, carry heavy burdens, accept change and forge ahead.
DeLuca won me over in the most serious scenes. I usually try to separate myself from a show when things get too tense, but I simply couldn't do that with her on stage. She had some harsh lines to deliver and she did it well. Moore responded perfectly, making the whole event believable. With the use of facial expressions, good voice tones, perfect reactions to one another and an even flow of conversation, this twosome put on an excellent performance.
It's a play that makes you think and makes you talk. It's performed in a way that will have you immersed. This show runs Friday and Saturday only so do not miss it!