‘Next Fall’Feature Story, Section 4A Monday, March 19th, 2012
A powerful look at beliefs and gay relationships
Next Fall, the Tony Award-nominated drama by Geoffrey Nauffts, currently touching audiences at the Diversionary Theatre, is not one that sneaks up on you. It hits you head on, opening in a hospital where all of its six characters are brought together in tragedy. Luke, a young gay Christian with an agnostic partner, Adam, has been critically injured in an auto accident. Joining Adam in the waiting room at different times are his faithful good friend Holly; Luke’s fundamentalist Christian father Butch, who likes to quote the Bible; Luke’s mother and Butch’s talkative, scattered ex-wife Arlene; and Brandon, who is … well, it’s not really clear who Brandon is until the second act. Nevertheless, it is evident early on that none of their lives will ever be the same again.
Told in real time and through flashbacks that show the evolution of Luke and Adam’s relationship, the play is powerful and engrossing, funny and poignant. It embodies many issues: faith, religion, tradition, family, death, sin, love, coping, connection, commitment, acceptance … in other words, very much like life. And the play doesn’t shrink from any of them.
A popular synopsis of the play tells us, “Luke believes in God. Adam believes in everything else.” As we get to know Luke and Adam, we have to wonder whether that is a gross oversimplification. We see their relationship grow, evolve, even struggle, and realize that things like beliefs and religion are not black-and-white, not as simple as they seem. Though he wants desperately to do so, Luke is not out to his parents. If he were not so believable, one could easily scoff at the fact that he adheres to his Christian faith so strongly in a very matter-of-fact way. In fact, Luke’s calm and persistent acceptance of his faith is a major irritant to Adam. He just never understands it. Or does he? Especially in Adam, there is much more than appears on the surface.
The staging alternates between the hospital waiting room and Luke and Adam’s apartment. The set is enough to convey space and location yet sparse enough to not draw attention away from the all-important dialogue. Whether in dealing with every day life or brief political comment or the much deeper subjects, the words of Nauffts are credible and genuine. None of the characters, not even Butch, are caricatures, but very real people.
An early standout performance is Shana Wride as the sharp-tongued and fluid Arlene, who eventually shows a deep heart and surprising understanding. Yet, growing closer and closer to Adam and Luke, played respectively by Todd McGrath and Stewart Calhoun, it is easy to realize the subtle power in each of their performances and how they rise to command roles that demand a great deal.
Their believability makes the powerful ending – and yes, I admit, it sneaked up on me – linger with the audience out of the theater, down the street, and all the way home to their real lives.
For more information go to diversionary.org or call the theatre at 619-220-0097.
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