Rubicon Theatre Company treats Ventura audiences—and anyone else in search of a delightful, nostalgic, emotionally potent trip back to the Eisenhower ‘50s—to Gulf View Drive, the third and final installment of Arlene Hutton’s Ovation Award-winning Nibroc Trilogy.

No longer the met-cute WWII sweethearts of Last Train To Nibroc or the postwar young marrieds of See Rock City, Raleigh and May Brummett (Erik Odom and Lily Nicksay) have left behind their Appalachian roots for the sunnier climes of the 1953 West Florida coast.

If only bestselling children’s author Raleigh could find the peace and quiet needed to meet his latest deadline.

Unfortunately for our harried hero, not only has May’s mother Mrs. Gill (Sharon Sharth) come down for a considerably extended visit, Raleigh soon finds himself surrounded by a houseful of women who won’t give him a moment’s peace.

The suddenly widowed Mrs. Brummett (Clarinda Ross) has shown up on her son’s doorstep too, and before long, the arrival of Raleigh’s married sister Treva (Faline England) has the poor boy outnumbered four to one.

Mrs. Brummett, in particular, is every bit the piece of work we first met in See Rock City, and removed from her Appalachian element, she finds absolutely nothing about her new surroundings to her liking—not the weather nor the mosquitoes nor the house on Gulf View Drive’s cinderblock walls where brick or stone should be.

And then there’s Treva, who’s left her husband back in Detroit (and their three children in Kentucky with the in-laws) to spend her days watching CBS soaps down Florida way, that is when she’s not demanding errand after errand from the household’s sole driver, a not-all-that-eager-to-do-Treva’s bidding May.

Nibroc Trilogy fans will relish a return visit chez the Brummett-Gills, but it’s not at all necessary to have seen either Last Train To Nibroc or See Rock City to thoroughly enjoy the last (and best) of the bunch.

Gulf View Drive’s early-1950s timeframe allows playwright Hutton to explore the seeds of change just beginning to take root in the Eisenhower ‘50s, May’s desire to be a working wife placing her in conflict with Raleigh’s Ozzie Nelson insistence on being the man of the house.

Meanwhile, the reason behind Treva’s escape from an unhappy marriage raises an issue left largely unspoken in the pre-Donahue/Oprah ‘50s, while the literature-loving 10-year-old whom May has allowed to unofficially audit her classes adds race relations to the mix.

Changing times aside, Gulf View Drive aims primarily to entertain, and entertain it does thanks to Hutton’s lovingly-detailed cast of characters, Katharine Farmer’s subtly incisive direction, and five of the richest performances you’ll see this month or any.

The ever watchable Odom once again makes Raleigh so darned likeable that one can forgive his occasional bursts of era-appropriate chauvinism while waiting for his inner mensch to break through, and after three plays opposite his leading lady, the duo have their romantic chemistry honed to the nth degree.

Recent Ovation winner Nicksay’s third star turn at the Rubicon could well be her finest of the bunch, and when Hutton gives May the chance to let the tears flow in the play’s most powerful scene, another statuette may well be in order.

Sharth’s sweet-as-molasses Mrs. Brummett and Ross’s sweet-as-vinegar Mrs. Gill shine even brighter under Florida skies as the two newly single in-laws grow in often unexpected ways.

Last but not least is the stunning England, whose Treva undergoes Gulf Stream Drive’s most life-changing journey, a hard-to-love character whom the Rubicon favorite has us ever so gradually coming to adore.

Mike Billings lights his (so-authentic-you-can-smell-the-gulf-stream-breezes) set with exquisite variety; Marcy Froehlich costumes the Brummett-Gills to 1950s perfection, with a tip of the bonnet to May’s vibrantly-hued frocks; sound designer Austin Quan provides a pitch-perfect mix of early ‘50s Hit Parade and subtle background effects; and T. Theresa Scarano’s serves up some just-right lanai-appropriate props.

Stephanie Coltrin is casting director. Jessie Vacchiano is production stage manager. Christina M. Burck is production manager. David King is technical director.

I’m surely not the first Nibroc Trilogy fan to hold out hope for a fourth installment. In the meantime, Gulf View Drive gives L.A. audiences more than enough reason to make a Pacific View drive up north.

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Rubicon Theatre, 1006 E. Main Street, Ventura.

–Steven Stanley
January 28, 2017
Photos: Jeanne Tanner


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