By KIM COOL
FEATURES EDITOR, Venice Gondolier-Sun
Jan. 24, 2018
“Last Train to Nibroc” is proof of the value of Venice Theatre, not just because of its size, its budget, its cadre of volunteers or its education program and productions, but because of the opportunities it gives to individuals and families. Consider the two-member cast and top-notch creative team. The cast is Charlie Kollar (Raleigh), who has been on the theater’s stage since he was in his mother’s womb, and Cheyenne Alfond (May) in her first performance at Venice. Kollar’s mother is talented singer/actress Kim Kollar, the theater’s volunteer coordinator and facilities manager. His father is Allan Kollar, an actor who also is the theater’s producing director. Charlie, a senior at Pine View School, hopes to attend the theater program at the University of Central Florida next year. Alford has a master’s degree in psychology from the University of West Georgia, and she minored in theater at Young Harris College. She is a school guidance counselor and a photographer with a passion for theater. Peter Ivanov, the director, was born into the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and eventually earned a master’s in fine arts from the prestigious Asolo Conservatory of Actor Training in Sarasota. It’s a combination that makes for a strong show.
As the play begins, May is seated alone by the window on a train heading east. It is about 1940 and she is properly dressed for travel in a simple dress, heels and hat. Her hair is in a bun.
She is the picture of the missionary she hopes to become but first she is returning home to Corbin, Kentucky, from a disappointing visit with the man she seems to have thought of as her future husband. She is protective of her seat by the window and not eager to have anyone sitting next to her. Raleigh, in his Army Air Corps uniform, enters, throws his duffel bag into the overhead bin and asks if he might sit there. She grudgingly tolerates that, but wants no part of any conversation he endeavors to initiate. Also on the train are the bodies of famous writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Nathanael West.
Raleigh, who has been discharged for medical reasons, is from a neighboring town to Corbin. His discharge papers included a train pass he can use to go anywhere. Inspired by the bodies of the two famous writers on the train, he decides to go to New York to become a writer. By the time we learn this, he has worn down his seat mate, who has gone from being hostile and defensive to being tolerant of him, almost bordering on cordiality.
“Come to New York with me,” Raleigh says to May. “Why go to New York City if you are going to write about Kentucky?” May asks. “If you go home and I go there, would you go to the Nibroc Festival with me?” Raleigh asks. “‘Nibroc’ is ‘Corbin’ spelled backwards.”
The bodies of the famous writers continue on to the east for burial, but Raleigh and May leave the train in Kentucky and go their separate ways, though they stay in touch.
She becomes a teacher, while he, hampered by the condition for which he had to leave the service, cannot keep a job and even ends up in the hospital for a time. Misunderstanding his condition, she does not visit him, although she does write to him. Somehow, their on-again, off-again relationship continues, at times humorous and at times with hints of what might be — or not.
Ivanov could not have found a better couple for the two roles. They leave no doubt as to the personality of their character, and the chemistry between them. Charlie Kollar reminds me of a young Tom Hanks. It doesn’t seem to matter what role he is playing, he becomes that character. Hopefully, Alford will find future roles at Venice and elsewhere. Kudos to these three for the evening of entertainment they provide in the Pinkerton Theatre at Venice.
Costumes by Meg Ferguson, sound by Casey Dieter, lighting by Robert Graham, set by Brian Freeman and stage management by Mike Campbell contribute to a fine evening of theater.
“Last Train to Nibroc” continues through Jan. 28. “Smokey Joe’s Cafe continues on the main stage through Feb. 4. For performance times and tickets, call 941-488-1115, visit the box office, 140 W.
Tampa Ave., or go to VeniceStage.com.