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Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts – Broadway Theater Review

 

'TIS THE SEASON TO FLESH OUT THEOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS ABOUT SEXUAL ORIENTATION

 

picture - Next FallTheater Review

by Cindy Pierre 

published March 28, 2010 

 

Next Fall

now playing on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theatre  

 

With the constant bridging of points A and B with straight lines, New York City is definitely not a hub of leisure.  We want what we want right now, and, most of the time, we don't count the cost of such rapid delivery.  Opposing this wham-bam-thank-you-Sam culture in several ways is Geoffrey Nauffts' compelling drama, Next Fall.  In it, Nauffts not only asks his characters in post-9/11 New York to exercise patience with each other, he also asks the audience to have patience with them.  And in nearly every aspect, the production is worth the wait.

 

Delay may be a pervasive factor in Next Fall, but you won't find a trace of it in the opening sequences. Instead, you'll crash right into the plot with the sound of smashing cars succeeded by the fluorescent lights of a hospital.   Then it's post-accident and reflection time for the family and friends of Luke (Patrick Heusinger), the sweet-tempered, recovering patient who has trouble reconciling his homosexuality with his Christian faith.

 

Although Heusinger plays the character with warmth to everyone he interacts with, few people know Luke as intimately as Adam (Patrick Breen), his live-in, atheist lover. Not his parents Arlene (Connie Ray) and Butch (Cotter Smith), whom Luke has taken painstaking measures to hide his sexuality from; not his friends Holly (Maddie Corman) and Brandon (Sean Dugan); and certainly not his younger brother, who is affectionately referred to but never seen onstage.  Unfortunately, intimacy doesn't always infer understanding, so Adam constantly grapples with the validity of their relationship, his inability to accept Luke's faith, and his own persistent grumpiness.

 

While Adam struggles with his faithlessness, there are reasons why you may have some struggles of your own.  Though Next Fall is a tender look at a relationship full of warring philosophies and lifestyles, the differences are insufferable in a long-term relationship.  As Luke pleas with Adam to let him wait until next fall to come out to his family, we are subsequently hearing a plea from the playwright and cast to empathize and like characters who writhe in their opposing views of the world.  Under Sheryl Kaller's crisp direction, the talented cast make the plea compelling, but their skill doesn't distract from the cyclical and often contradictory circumstances.  We can't root for characters who profess to be strong in their convictions, but yet behave in the contrary at every turn with no solid explanation for it. Yet, that is exactly what we are asked to do.  And we are asked to do it so often that the atheist, the most confounding in a spiritually-curious play, becomes relatable.

 

Though Next Fall is now co-produced by Elton John after a successful run off-Broadway last year, you won't find any of Sir John's songs in the limited soundtrack.  In fact, no embellishments were made to the original production apart from a heftier price tag.  If you're a devout fan of the production at the Peter J. Sharpe Theater, you may not mind that most of the staging and all of the cast was retained.  After all, as the old idiom goes, if it ain't broke.... and Next Fall is far from broke, so don't fix it. But for those of you who are looking for a little more showmanship and a little more grandness, you won't find it here.

 

With a smart, heartfelt script that allows you to consider both sides of the sexual and religious coin and a relationship that defies logic or sanity, Next Fall is one part home movie, one part scrapbook, and all parts fodder for a psychotherapy session. And although the situations presented in it are exasperating and sometimes nonsensical, it does give you much to mull over.  If you take the time to do just that, you'll find that Next Fall, the season when colors (and maybe perceptions) change, is not that far away.

 

cindypierre @ stageandcinema.com

 

 
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