In Last Train to Nibroc, Arlene Hutton’s off-Broadway breakthrough and a hit last season for the Rubicon in Ventura, May and Raleigh are the only two characters, and their chance encounter on a train leads the young couple to marry and settle in the small town of Corbin, Kentucky, at the height of World War II. In See Rock City, Erik Odom and Lily Nicksay are back as Raleigh and May, and they are now living with May’s mother, Mrs. Gill (Sharon Sharth) on the Gill family farm. Raleigh’s epilepsy has gotten him discharged from the navy. Without a driver’s license or a job, the ambitious young writer depends on May, who has abandoned her plans to become a missionary and taken the position of principal at the local elementary school. In addition to sharing the daily mood swings of the home front with Mrs. Gill, the pair must also contend with periodic visits from Mrs. Brummett (Clarinda Ross), Raleigh’s mother, who barges in from time to time with all sorts of insensitive questions and remarks.
A World War II period piece set on the front porch of a Kentucky farmhouse may not sound like the next big thing in 21st-century theater, but there’s something extraordinary happening at the Rubicon with See Rock City that makes it utterly irresistible. Hutton’s writing has wings, and in young director Katharine Farmer’s hands, the cast achieves memorable flights of ensemble coordination and chemistry. As May, Nicksay is never less than brilliant, turning the play’s subtle shifts in mood and tension into an unforgettable seamless whole. Odom makes Raleigh’s anguished sense of inadequacy entirely believable and brings the character’s dark side into perfect synchronization with his vivid imagination and warm sense of humor. Both Sharth and Ross turn in excellent, thoughtful performances that lend further coherence to this unusually well-crafted and moving drama.