NY: Next Fall

The weekend finished with an emotional knockout - the stunning and beautiful Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts. This production benefits from a strong ensemble cast, one without a weak link; a smart scenic design by Wilson Chin, where elements that are one object in one location seamlessly transition into another object in another location; a fun costume design by Jess Goldstein, who shows by her clothing choices that she knows the characters as well as the actors; an appropriate space, the intimate Helen Hayes theatre, the smallest house on Broadway; and most of all a careful, smart, and emotionally powerful text. I say careful because this play is one that could so easily teeter on the edge of cliche, any minute it could turn into one of several plays I have already scene, but it never does. The script always remains fresh, the characters, real.

The play jumps around in time to tell the love story of Adam (Patrick Breen), an older, atheist, uptight man, and Luke (Patrick Heusinger), the younger, puppy-doggish, and Christian man. Luke struggles with his love for Adam due to his beliefs, and Adam stuggles with the fact that Luke finds their relationship something to struggle about. Luke isn't out to his parents yet, Arlene and Butch (Connie Ray and Cotter Smith), and though he keeps promising he will tell them that he is gay, it doesn't happen in the four years that Adam and Luke are together. This all comes to a breaking point when Luke is hospitalized after a car accident. Joining Adam in the waiting room are Luke's parents, Luke's friend Brandon (Sean Dugan), and their mutual friend Holly (Maddie Corman).

Praise is due to every cast member. Particularly Ray and Smith, who despite their characters' somewhat obvious names, never give into easy stereotypes or caricature. Ray is absolutely delightful as Luke's eccentric, once wild mother, and she adeptly walks the line of a perfect performance and too much. And further kudos to Nauffts and Smith who never let Butch become the villain of the piece.

In fact it is the performances of Smith and Heusinger that move you to tears. Smith's portrayal of man with strong beliefs and deep love for his son is heartbreaking. And the emotions that run across Heusinger's face as Luke fights with Adam, or when Luke tries to come out to his father but is unable, are stunning. If you want to see great acting, look no further than Next Fall.

4 stars.


Popular Posts