Next Fall

  • Date:
    June 1, 2009
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall

    Adam (Patrick Breen) and Luke (Patrick Heusinger) meet at a party where Luke is a cater-waiter. Adam has had a mishap with a piece of food, and Luke gave him the Heimlich � not because he thought Adam needed it, but because he wanted to get his arms around him. When Luke confesses as much, and Adam brushes him off, explaining that he is nearly old enough to be Luke�s father, Luke responds �Oh. Now you�re making me horny.� Adam surrenders and a relationship is born.

    From the very beginning, Adam and Luke go over their religious differences like people dissecting a recipe. When Luke prays before their first breakfast together, Adam pursues him with a plodding logic. It is a slow motion debate that culminates in the conclusion that Matthew Shepard�s killers would go to Heaven if they accepted in Jesus, whereas Matthew Shepard most likely would not. This is followed by a very uncomfortable silence and the d�nouement of Luke�s appeal � �Can we change the subject?�

    We see all of this in flashbacks, as the opening of the play occurs on the day that Luke has been taken to the hospital after he was hit by a cab. Friends of theirs, Holly (Maddie Corman) and Brandon (Sean Dugan) who barely know one another, are making small talk in the waiting room and are soon joined by Luke�s parents, Arlene (Connie Ray) and Butch (Cotter Smith) now divorced. Adam arrives, having returned from a high school reunion, and finds them bivouacked. Not long after, everyone is greeted with the news that �family� can see Luke. Because Luke never told his parents about Adam, he is not included in �family�.

    So it begins. But this is not a story about the iconic moments these people share. It is about the awkward, unplanned intersections. Nauffts creates flashbacks with a light touch and a daring pen. We watch encounters involving nearly all the characters, in each of which a brick is laid in place in the fortress of Luke and Adam�s relationship. We are not lead by the hand like small children and told where to look. Nauffts, and the excellent director Sheryl Kaller lead us by walking ahead and encouraging us to follow.

    Follow we do. And we are rewarded with experiencing characters that meet one another on a cellular level. In loving Adam, Luke has not crossed the line, he has moved it. But he brings all his baggage with him. He loves Adam and repents. Were Adam to convert, things might be a little easier for them and better for humanity. Adam is a pragmatist who is amazed and grateful for the love he shares with Luke. For Adam, love is something to be celebrated, period. He cannot imagine a God who would legislate what he and Luke share. For Adam, not acting on an impulse to love someone would be the real sin.

    The satellites around this love story do more than reflect its light. Luke�s father Butch is a man whose isolation tank has sprung a leak, and he has no protection against a world without his son. His mother Arlene (Connie Ray) is a big-hearted gal, with a shameful past, who responds to life�s minutiae without moving a muscle. Holly and Brandon are two friends from opposite sides of the seesaw disapproved of Luke and Adams relationship for wildly different reasons that were based on love. When the emergency bell rings, however, all bets are off and everyone shows up.

    For Nauffts, life itself is the emergency bell that never stops ringing. His is not one of those fire alarms, or police sirens, or even one of those old sweet school bells that signaled the beginning of the day. In Next Fall Nauffts� emergency bell is a clarion call: strap on your seatbelt, remember to bring your heart, and get here as fast as you can.

    My thoughts exactly.

    This one is a shining star with a limited run.

     

     

    What the press had to say.....

    "proceeds with the stinging breeziness of a cosmopolitan comedy."
    Ben Brantley
    New York Times

    "deeply moving and surprisingly hilarious play"
    Frank Scheck
    New York Post

    "decidedly earthbound."
    Roma Torre
    NY1

    "shot through with such sincerity, such depth of feeling, such genuine questioning that it thoroughly captures the attention."
    David A. Rosenberg
    Back Stage

    "a potent piece of political theater"
    Marilyn Stasio
    Variety