When is the right time to come out to your parents? Will they ever be ready for that conversation? Will they accept or discard you? Is it okay to pray after sex? All these questions and more are broached upon in the fine new drama Next Fall, by Geoffrey Nauffts, enacted by a superb cast, having its world premiere at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre.
It’s a very moving, oft times amusing, emotional journey that not only deals with the rights that any gay person should have if one of them is ill but also touches on the Christian beliefs of Luke (Patrick Heusinger) an actor and his older boyfriend Adam (Patrick Breen) who is an atheist.
What happens when Luke “has the rug pulled out from under him” in an unexpected car accident and lays dying in a coma with the “organ transplant guy lurking around” and “only family” is allowed into his room?
We first meet family and friends and lover in an attractive hospital waiting area (design by Wilson Chin) as they await the fate of Luke who is in a coma. His homophobic father, aptly named Butch (Cotter Smith) is tough on everyone including his ex-wife Arlene (Connie Ray) who is dealing with her Puerto Rican dog problem and who understands very little about Jewish people or their culture. Holly (Maddie Corman) is the owner of a candle shop where Adam works and Brandon (Sean Dugan) is an unassuming, quiet guy who seems to have something very important on his mind.
In flashback we see how Luke and Adam meet. How they move into their new apartment. How religious differences invade their bedroom. The scenes are swift with wonderful, sharp and funny dialogue. Intelligent direction by Sheryl Kaller is careful not to go into gay cliché-land. As their relationship develops over a five year span – the hypochondriac Adam and the troubled but lovable Luke verbally spar over their opposing ideas of what happens after we die. We feel sympathetic towards both of them. But it is the problem of Luke coming out to his parents that causes the most tension. And when the accident occurs and Adam is not allowed in to see Luke – that is where the real humanity of the play surges forth.
When Luke’s father is due to arrive in an unexpected visit, Luke tries to “de-gay” the apartment. Adam wants him to tell his dad the truth. It’s very hard on both of them. As well as the parents who most probably know but do not want to speak of it. And it never really is spoken about. And that is the power that this play has. It reveals the characters and what they feel without actually verbalizing that very “touchy” subject.
Just witness Butch’s heart wrenching final moments with his son and the aftermath. Be amazed at the tenderness of Luke’s mother’s understanding and how she helps Adam. Feel the goose bumps as Adam and Butch confront each other over Luke’s comatose body, be enthralled by Brandon’s confession and be completely overwhelmed by Next Fall’s compelling resolution. www.nakedangels.com