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Next Fall at BUA
by Anthony Chase
The title of Geoffrey Naufft’s play, Next Fall, which opens at BUA theater this week, refers both to a fall from divine grace and to endless postponement.
Adam and Luke are an unlikely couple. Luke (Daniel Beason) is a devout Christian; Adam (Darryl Hart) is a confirmed atheist. Adam is a middle-aged hypochondriac; Luke is a young hottie. And yet they fall in love. Luke promises that he will tell his family about the relationship—next fall.
Next fall comes and goes.
There are other complications.
Luke believes that his lover Adam is condemned to hell unless he will accept Jesus. Homosexuality, it seems, is mere sinning and will be forgiven, but unless Adam accepts Jesus, the two must spend eternity apart. This divide generates both friction and comedy.
But the greatest complication is the one that starts the play. Luke is hit by a car and falls into a coma. His parents descend on the New York hospital where he is being treated to take control of everything. Everything. And they don’t know Adam from…Adam.
The artfulness of Next Fall, which was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Play last season, is in the deceptive skill of the story-telling. This is a comedy, but it revolves exclusively around serious issues. On the surface, it is about Christians and atheists, but it is, ultimately, about the divisions that keep people apart.
Throughout the central narrative of the play, Luke is in a coma. We see him in the contemporary moment only once. Everything else we learn about Luke, we see in flashbacks. These two stories unfold to reveal the play.
Along the way, we meet Holly (Stephanie Bax), the friend who employs Adam and Luke in her candle shop and serves as diplomat between the various camps. We meet Arlene (Mary Moebius), Luke’s eccentric and conflicted mother. We meet Butch (Dan Walker), Luke’s severe and repressive father, a man who nonetheless has a peculiar capacity for compassion and kindness. We meet Brandon, (Kevin Keleher), Luke’s gay Christian friend.
Bringing this eclectic crew together through a terrible accident may be a well-worn theatrical device, but Naufft uses it to fresh effect. The tropes may seem familiar, but they play out in unexpected and illuminating ways. Every event and reference in the past has its reverberation in the present. Even the rapture, promised by Luke, that moment when he hopes his family will come together, arrives in the play’s final moment—just not as he might have expected.
Directed by Javier Bustillos, Next Fall plays through April 2.
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