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Rob Smith and Janet Doughty sparkle — absolutely sparkle — in The Towne Players of Garner's current encore presentation of playwright Arlene Hutton's charming 1998 romantic comedy, Last Train to Nibroc. These two Towne Players mainstays have definitely honed their craft since the group's award-winning September 2001 presentation of this crowd-pleasing old-fashioned comedy smartly restaged by Towne Players artistic director Beth Honeycutt, with considerable assistance from her husband, technical director Scott Honeycutt.
Rob Smith is a scream as smooth-talking Raleigh, an ex-U.S. Army aviator involuntarily discharged because he has "the fits." Raleigh, who has always wanted to be a writer, has his heart set on going to New York City until he meets May (Janet Doughty), a spunky recent college graduate from a neighboring rural eastern Kentucky town, on an overcrowded train heading east from Los Angeles. Completely smitten by the beautiful but bookish and deeply religious May, Raleigh delays his dream and returns to his old Kentucky home to court May.
Their fortuitous meeting and subsequent rocky relationship tugs at the audience's heartstrings. Janet Doughty, who like Rob Smith turns in a highly polished performance broadened and deepened since she played the role two years ago, is a real treat to watch as she, step by step, overcomes the prejudices that she learned at her parents' knee.
The Thursday-night audience, which gave the performance an enthusiastic and prolonged standing ovation, seemed totally charmed by this slightly revamped and tightened 90-minute Towne Players production. The current show, which is performed without intermission, features recorded bluegrass music instead of the live onstage musicians that director Beth Honeycutt employed to create the "country" mood of the September 2001 production.
The briefer recorded interludes of "I'll Fly Away" and "Barbara Allen" not only pay off in a brisker pace, but had audience members asking after the show about how to buy the featured songs.
The Towne Players of Garner present Last Train to Nibroc Friday-Saturday, Aug. 22-23, at 8 p.m. in The Garner Historic Auditorium, 742 West Garner Rd., Garner, North Carolina. $8 ($6 seniors). 919/779-6144. http://www.towneplayers.org/.