Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

“Nocturne” Paints a Painstakingly Vivid Picture of Grief

Adam Rapp’s chilling, poetic play “Nocturne” stars Raleigh actor Jesse R. Gephart

When viewers walk into Mortall Coile Theatre Company’s production of Nocturne, a one-man play written by Adam Rapp and part of Burning Coal Theatre Company’sWait ‘Til You See This Series, the set is the first thing that catches their attention. Beautifully designed by Jon Haas and director Dana Marks, the set features hundreds (possibly more) of books made into the makeshift structures—a piano and a credenza—that make up the main character’s life. If the set is what draws viewers in, however, it is the poetic language, the beautiful imagery, and the storytelling abilities of actor Jesse R. Gephart that keep them interested.

Gephart plays a 32 year old loner who accidentally killed his younger sister fifteen years ago and who has worn his guilt and pain like a shield ever since. Through Rapp’s lovely, lilting script, the character boldly recounts the smallest details of the event, mixing real and constructed memory into a combination reminiscent of Sherwood Anderson’s well-known short story “Death in the Woods.”Quiet lapses in the near-constant monologue are filled with the strains of haunting piano music, reminding the viewer of the piano-prodigy life the main character left behind after the accident. Indeed, as the play goes on, it becomes evident that this character’s actions killed more than just his old life and his sister; they also served as a catalyst for the destruction of his entire family.

Though the subject matter is painfully sad, Rapp’s script and Gephart’s perfect delivery—tortured with just the right touches of humor—cast a spell over viewers. Gephart’s monologue is loaded but not overwhelming. One might wish to tear it apart and dissect it, word by beautiful word, but the desire to do so is not distracting. Gentle lighting touches by R.S. Buck help to lull the viewer into this captivating and emotionally intense story.

Also noteworthy here is the simple but powerful costume design by LeGrande Smith. Gephart, looking appropriately shaggy and depressed, is clad in a simple hoodie and jeans, but it is the choice to put him in a bright, blue scarf—reminiscent of the flowers in his sister’s dress on the day of the accident and of the horrific details surrounding the accident—that makes this costume every bit as haunting and as memorable as the production itself.


Mortall Coile Theatre Company and Burning Coal Theatre Company present NOCTURNE, starring Jesse R. Gephart, at 7:30 p.m. March 21-23 and 2 p.m. March 24 in Murphey School Auditorium, 224 Polk St., Raleigh, NC 27604.


BOX OFFICE: 919-438-3955 or

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VIDEO PREVIEW (by Tripp Green):



Mortall Coile Theatre Company

Burning Coal Theatre Company VENUE/DIRECTIONS:


Nocturne (background): (Macmillan).

The Script: (Google Books).

Adam Rapp (playwright): ( The Playwrights Database) and (Wikipedia).

Jesse R. Gephart (star): (Facebook).

Dana Marks (director): (Facebook).

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Reviews