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picture - Next FallTheater Review

by Cindy Pierre

published June 12, 2009

 

Next Fall

now playing at the Peter J. Sharp Theater

through July 5

 

The old idiom “why put off until tomorrow what you can do today” is supposed to encourage you not to delay, but it doesn't stop the characters in Naked Angels’ production of Geoffrey Nauffts' Next Fall from trying to push back what they need to do or be 'til, well, next fall.  In this compelling piece, there's a lot of spiritualizing, philosophizing and proselytizing, but you won't feel like you're sitting in on a class or church services.  The arguments here are presented in such an articulate and entertaining manner that you may just broaden your perspective on what's righteous while enjoying yourself to boot.  And where the expansion of horizons is concerned, the right time should always be right now.

 

Nauffts doesn't waste any time with introducing us to Next Fall's plot.  As a matter of fact, he crashes us right into it.  After a collision sound effect, the show opens in contrast with the warm hues of Wilson Chin's blue and green hospital set where the family and friends of Luke, played sweetly by Patrick Heusinger, are awaiting his status after a car accident.  Witty dialogue is delivered snappily by his mother Arlene (Connie Ray) while her brooding ex-husband Butch (Cotter Smith, channeling Tommy Lee Jones), Luke's even-tempered friend Brandon (Sean Dugan) and Luke's close friend Holly (Maddie Corman) respond with less enthusiasm to the small talk.

 

picture - Next FallDespite underlying tensions between Arlene and Butch, the show doesn't really begin until the arrival of Adam (Patrick Breen).  Showing much more concern than even the best of friends, Adam, an irreverent atheist, is only partially welcome to the mostly Christian waiting committee, and we soon find out the several reasons why.  Flashing backward and forward in time, the show gives us a 360 degree view of his relationship with Luke, from their meeting when Luke gives him the Heimlich maneuver through the ups and downs of their romantic union.  The only problem is that Luke's parents don't know that their Christian son is gay and living the gay lifestyle with a much older, argumentative, live-in lover.  But not to worry: they'll know about it next fall, when everyone, including the younger brother and step-mom that he only references, are ready to be told.

 

While you're waiting for the – gasp! – shocking broadcast, the delivery on other elements comes fast and curious.  While it's peculiar that Luke's brother and step-mom never show up (and questionable that they should even exist), the characters who do show up are marvelous.  Sean Dugan (of 2008's The English Channel) may be grossly underused, but the whole cast is strong under Sheryl Kaller's sharp direction, especially since Nauffts' smart material makes it easy.  There's enough depth to the arguments to make you feel empathy on both sides of the religious coin, and that's a remarkable feat in itself.

 

And while the characters are busy transforming themselves into people who are more open-minded, Chin transforms his multi-purpose set into three wonderful scenes.  From the hospital to the rooftop where Luke and Adam met to a shared NY apartment set that ingeniously protracts and retracts, you never know how the scenery will develop next, but you'll ooh and ahh (at least in your head) every time it magically happens.  Next Fall is a season that you don't want to wait too long for. 

 

cindypierre @ stageandcinema.com

 

all photos are by Carol Rosegg

 

 
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