Geoffrey Nauffts’ 2010 Tony-Nominated drama Next Fall is currently enjoying its West Coast premiere at the Geffen Playhouse. The story revolves around a young gay man who has been critically injured in a car crash. His friends and family gather in the waiting room of a hospital, while he remains in a coma. Unfortunately, his divorced parents don’t know he is gay, and his lover (who isn’t allowed into his hospital room), has to stifle his wishes to tell the parents the truth about his relationship with their son.
It’s a familiar theme that has been mined in many other plays, especially those dealing with AIDS. However, this time it surrounds an accident, rather than illness, and there is an added element – that of religion. The younger man is a devout Christian and his older lover is a confirmed atheist. Add to that, it takes place in a Jewish hospital.
The play goes back and forth between the hospital and flashbacks of when Luke and Adam met and moved in together. The main problem is that there doesn’t seem to be any reason why handsome young actor, Luke, should fall for Adam; the older candle-salesman-turned-teacher is such a negative, unpleasant guy. Not to mention, their totally opposing religious beliefs and strong views. Nonetheless, the two partner up for four years, though Luke continues to hide it from his parents. Ultimately, their relationship seems to support the theory of “opposites attract.”
Despite the gravity of the situation, the drama is punctuated with lots of snappy comic lines that keep the audience laughing. In addition, there are some intriguing religious ideas in the script. However, there didn’t seem to be enough feeling or genuine reactions to Luke’s grave condition in the first act. At the beginning, no one even seems upset; that is saved until the moment right before the act break, and also in the second act.
An accomplished cast appears in Next Fall, including Academy Award nominee Lesley Ann Warren (Victor/Victoria) as the mother, Arline and Jeff Fahey (Lost), as the father, Butch. Luke, the young actor is played by James Wolk (Lonestar), and the play truly comes to life in the first flashback when we meet him. Wolk is charming and charismatic in the role. Broadway actor and Geffen alum Ken Barnett portrays Brandon, Luke’s childhood friend; and Betsy Brandt, most recognized for her role on AMC’s Breaking Bad portrays the role of Holly, the woman who introduced the couple. The older lover, Adam, is played by Geoffrey Nauffts, who is also the playwright. The play was directed by Sheryl Kaller, who also directed the Broadway version.
Special events during the run of Next Fall include the theater’s special Signature Series options for no additional cost. These evenings include a post show Q&A at Talk Back Tuesdays; a one-of-a kind after-party at Girls Night Out; a cultural happy hour with Lounge Fridays and complimentary wine tastings during Wine Down Sundays.
Next Fall runs thru Sunday, December 4, 2011.
Tuesday – Friday 8:00pm
Saturday 3:00pm; 8:00pm
10886 Le Conte Ave