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By Michael Christianson
A travelling production of The Last Train to Nibroc rolled into the Centre last week for the Dryden Entertainment Series.
The two-person play was put on by the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and featured Gwendolyn Collins as May and Kristian Jordan as Raleigh.
The play began on the aforementioned train where Raleigh, in full soldier uniform is looking for a seat. He ends up next to May who is reading and would seem to rather be left alone. As a bit of foreshadowing of the play itself Raleigh warns the book she is reading is a romance.
In the first act we learn that May has just returned from seeing her solider boyfriend in California and Raleigh has been recently discharged for a medical issue he would rather not talk about. Raleigh has dreams of going to New York City but feels shame he cannot go off and fight in the Second World War.
The two soon learn they grew up in the same area of the country and May tells Raleigh he should go home to his family, even as she doesn’t look forward to seeing her own. Raleigh upon finding out that May has never been to the famous Nibroc festival in the town she grew up insists that he will have to take her.
The second scene opens over a year later with May at the Nibroc festival all alone but it isn’t long before she is joined by Raleigh, dressed down from last scene in overalls.
Throughout the second scene we learn that they did share a past since we saw them on the train but the educated well read man is now speaking more like the locals while May has become a teacher.
Raleigh says that May has become prickly and the two seem to wonder how they ever liked the other. We also learn that the medical condition Raleigh has suffered, which they always called ‘the fits’ is actually epilepsy.
In the third act the two are reunited again having dinner at May’s parents. Years after first meeting the two are finally able to resolve their differences and discover the depth of their feelings.
Beyond the love story are themes of religion, growing up, leaving home and the search for happiness.
Jordan as Raleigh did an incredible job to build up his character and we empathize with him when he cannot go off to war like everyone else in his town. He is left behind to figure out where to go next and his emotions run high to the point where it sounded like he was holding back tears.
The play harkened back to a simpler time with nostalgic music and settings but it was clear the simpler times were also difficult.