There are many reasons why the Nibroc trilogy is the most popular and critically acclaimed project the Rubicon Theatre has presented in recent years. But perhaps the biggest is playwright Arlene Hutton’s complex, surprising, relatable characters — all but one of whom are female. As one Boston critic wrote: “When, outside of an Almodóvar movie, had I recently seen so many plum roles for women?”
At the center of all three plays, including the finale, Gulf View Drive, which opens Saturday, January 28, is actress Lily Nicksay. She just won an Ovation Award — Southern California’s answer to the Tonys — for her role in the second installment, last year’s See Rock City.
Like the previous plays, Gulf View Drive focuses on Nicksay’s character of May (an educator); her husband, Raleigh (a novelist); and their extended families. But the setting has shifted from World War II–era Kentucky to Florida’s Gulf Coast, circa 1952.
“The first play is about May and Raleigh’s discovery of themselves and each other,” Nicksay explained. “The second is about coming to grips with married life and the effects of the war. The third play is about changing expectations and how you make sense of your family, these people you are stuck with.”
Like her character, Nicksay is impossible to pigeonhole, having assumed in her own life such disparate roles as Hollywood child actor and Scotland-based classics scholar. A movie-industry kid (her father is film producer David Nicksay), she followed her older brother into acting as a small child, getting her Screen Actors Guild card at age 4.
From ages 4 to 6, she was a series regular on the ABC sitcom Boy Meets World. A few years later, she discovered her love of theater, making her professional debut in a Glendale production of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck at age 14.
Deciding she’d rather get a good education than concentrate solely on acting, Nicksay enrolled in a boarding school in the Scottish highlands (her grandfather was from Glasgow). She fell in love with the country and stayed on to earn a degree in Latin and ancient Greek from the University of St. Andrews. “I read all of the Greek tragedies in the original. That was fabulous,” she recalled.
She eventually returned to L.A., where she joined the classics-oriented Antaeus company and gravitated toward challenging roles. Her mother, who lives in Ventura, had taken her to shows at the Rubicon, so she was familiar with the theater when she read a casting notice for Last Train to Nibroc, the first play of Hutton’s trilogy. She found the script “so charming that I had to be involved.”
Nibroc was intended to be a stand-alone, but the reception was so positive that the Rubicon decided to stage all three plays over three years, with the same core cast (including Erik Odom as Raleigh) and director (Katharine Farmer). New to the Gulf View Drive ensemble is multiple Independent Award winner Faline England.
Nicksay is thrilled to once again embody her “tenderhearted” character. “Today we’re so focused on the antihero in drama,” she noted. “These are flawed, three-dimensional, decent people who are trying to make the right decision in difficult situations.”
“At this point, the characters feel like old friends,” she added. “Not only have we gotten to know them more intimately, but we know each other better as actors. It feels so much like coming home.”
Gulf View Drive runs January 28-February 12, with previews Wednesday-Friday, January 25-27, at Rubicon Theatre (1006 E. Main St., Ventura). Call 667-2900 or see rubicontheatre.org.