PROVO – After months of hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, An Other Theater Company has opened their first show since their streaming production of Odd Shaped Balls back in March. The company has been dedicated to putting safety first and their newest offering is indeed a very safe drive-in style production where the audience can remain in their car for the entire show with sound provided through the car radio. Last Train to Nibroc, a fairly simple play to stage, requires only two performers, and AOTC was able to cast two actors who live together. With few scene changes and no needed complex design elements, Last Train to Nibroc is a great choice for this interesting format. While a risk to stage live theatre for viewers’ in their cars, AOTC has succeeded with Last Train to Nibroc, and I am in impressed with their efforts.
Written by Arlene Hutton and directed by Kacey Spadafora, Last Train to Nibroc is set in 1940s America featuring just two characters, a young couple that meet on a train and quickly form an endearing connection. Starring Laura Elise Chapman as May and Bryce Lloyd Fueston as Raleigh, the play follows the two characters as they come in and out of each other’s lives over the course of a few years. Though a simple premise, Last Train to Nibroc concentrates on the beauty and importance of human connection through its everchanging nature as time passes.
As AOTC company members, both Chapman and Fueston are always a delight to watch, and their performances in Last Train to Nibroc are no exception. Their acting abilities shine while playing May and Raleigh, characters that expose their vulnerability. The two actors have fantastic chemistry, showcasing the script’s naturalistic conversation and cute, cheeky and sparring dialogue. I loved watching May and Raleigh flirt, make each other laugh, challenge each other and fall in love. Chapman’s and Fueston’s performances were genuine and authentic, making it exciting to watch their relationship develop and easy for me to become invested in their stories.
As I watched from my car with a blanket and snacks, I found myself feeling quite cozy and I was surprised how much I enjoyed watching a play like this. While not the same as the community that being in a theatre with others brings, this was a fulfilling and comfortable substitute that reminded me what I’ve been missing without live theatre in my life. While it was similar to an actual drive-in movie, the magic of live performance positively came through and proved to be a viable and fun alternative format. With 14 cars in attendance (as well as some outdoor distanced seating), all of the parking spots provided a good view, close to the actors with no obstructions.
Located in a blocked off parking lot west of AOTC’s regular theatre at the Provo Towne Center mall, the cement wall of the side of the freeway works well for the show’s back drop, creating the illusion of a theatre, or perhaps a large movie screen. Spadafora, in his capacity of lighting designer and sound engineer, created a staging area that was well lit and a well working sound system by tuning into a FM radio channel. With sound design by Taylor Jack Nelson, the sound coming through the radio alternated between pre-recorded messages from the company, music and sound to enhance the production and live sound from the actor’s mics. While there were some external outdoor sounds picked up from the surroundings, it was not distracting to me, and it was never hard to hear the dialogue.
As the play ended, audience members honked their horns and flashed their lights in lieu of applause, a heartening gesture that reminded me of our shared experience and appreciation for those that made it possible. In these unusual times where our interactions with others are limited, it was comforting for me to become engrossed in a touching romance between unsuspecting strangers. Last Train to Nibroc is a lovely production for all ages and a much-needed respite from our current uncertain reality and the absence of live performance.