NEXT FALL

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    March 1, 2010
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall

    Review by Tulis McCall
    13 Mar 2010

    Well, it’s pretty darn swell when you see a play in a 100 seat house and l-o-v-e it only to see it again in a Broadway theatre and love it all over again.

    Geoffrey Nauffts knows about creating characters. Every person in this story is fully formed and squirrely. Each has a set of beliefs that hold up the platform of the life they have created as well as dozens of beliefs up against which they butt their heads. They are shaped by both, although they would be loathe to admit it.

    In the waiting room at a Jewish Hospital, three people wait for news of Luke (Patrick Heusinger) who is in critical condition because he was hit by a cab. Within the hour Luke will die, but not before we find out enough about him and Adam (Patrick Breen) to consider ourselves eligible to be listed as people who survive the death of a loved one.

    We do this not only because of Luke and Adam but also because of the waiting room folk. Luke’s mother Arlene (Connie Ray) has a mouth that behaves like a puppy that just discovered the closet door is open and filled with shoes. Luke’s father Butch (Cotter Smith) is wound tighter than a tourniquet but the lack of circulating blood has not quite killed his heart. Holly (Maddie Corman) is a self confessed fag-hag who owns a candle shop at present, and it may be the only thing that is keeping her tethered to the planet. Brandon (Sean Dugan) is a quiet man, a left-over from the days when being a Christian and being gay were okay as long as they didn’t mix.

    When Adam arrives at the hospital from a high school reunion, he finds everyone bivouacked. Not long after, they are greeted with the news that “family” can see Luke. ecause Luke never told his parents about Adam, he is not included in “family”.

    So begins the awkward, unplanned intersections. The past and present are littered with them and each becomes a brick 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. These characters leap into the pool and dare us to follow.

    We go back and forward in time, from the present in the hospital through the previous four years of this relationship. The main stumbling block is religion. Luke is a Christian, and not the mild mannered kind. This is a Christian who believes in the Rapture. In loving Adam, Luke has not crossed the line, he has moved it. He loves Adam and repents. Adam is an Atheist who is more worried about pillow face in the morning than meeting his maker. 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. He loves Luke and repentance is nowhere in sight.

    The second time around I did have a problem with the religion thing. These two are so adamant in their beliefs that it does strain credulity that they could last together as a couple. As a matter of fact, the problem waving the red flag here is the fact that Luke has not told he parents that he is gay. It is this omission that keeps Adam out of the medical decisions and out of Luke’s hospital room. It is this omission that is the most tragic, and the Christianity element, when all is said and done is barely a blip on the monitor.

    What is on the monitor is love and passion and grace and that value we place on beliefs. What is on the monitor is how angry we can be at one another until the moment when the emergency bell clangs. What is on the monitor is life vs. theory.

    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 jump into life as fast and as often as you are able. Don’t look. Just leap.

    My thoughts exactly.

    (Tulis McCall)

    "Smart, sensitive and utterly contemporary."
    Ben Brantley for New York Times

    "Can a serious drama be seriously funny? In the case of this gay love story, it can."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

    "Charming and ...humbly moving"
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "Heartfelt but pedestrian drama."
    Elysa Gardner for USA Today

    "In its move to Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre ... director Sheryl Kaller's tender staging has lost most of its intimacy. Fortunately, "Next Fall" retains its power to move."
    David Sheward for Back Stage

    "Not an earth-shattering play, but in its groundedness and good will, it gets you thinking."
    Robert Feldberg for The Record

    "Smart and enormously affecting gem."
    David Cote for Time Out NY

    "Expertly cast, enormously entertaining and even laugh-filled."
    Michael Kuchwara for AP

    "Deeply moving and surprisingly funny work."
    Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter

    "The slicked-up transfer pushes harder, particularly for laughs. But it remains a moving domestic drama."
    David Rooney for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - USA Today - Back Stage - The Record - Time Out New York - AP - Hollywood Reporter - Variety