Monday, 17 July 2017

Next Fall, July 14, 2017 **1/2

by Geoffrey Nauffts, presented by Boyslikeme 
at Chapel of Chapel, until July 30, 2017 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: **1/2
 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Mon July 17, 2017 & later in print. KH

Geoffrey Nauffts’ Tony-nominated script for Next Fall depicts a poignant love story between two seemingly mismatched men, but the play also uses humour and pathos to illuminate issues including closeted sexuality, religious bigotry and marriage inequality.

Adam (Darrin Redgate), a 40 year-old, frustrated writer who sells candles in his friend Holly’s (Sharon Davis) shop, falls in love with 20-something Luke (Mark Davis), a law school dropout, aspiring actor and conservative Christian whose judgmental religious views condemn even his own sexuality.

Luke believes that The Rapture will elevate only ‘believers’ like him into heaven and, to ensure his soul’s safety in the afterlife, he prays for forgiveness after sex. Meanwhile, Adam worries about phantom illnesses and argues about God and politics.

Peter Blackburn’s production requires greater subtlety to express the complex personal and political issues that arise when Luke is hospitalised and Adam must share a bedside vigil with Luke’s parents (Kaarin Fairfax, Paul Robertson) who are ignorant of Luke’s sexuality and his relationship with Adam.

Naufft’s play shifts between past and present, depicting the current circumstances in which Luke’s loved ones wrestle with grief, and a happier past when odd couple, Adam and Luke, fell in love and struggled with their differing views.

Unfortunately, the staging is awkward in this production, with a wide, green curtain splitting the performance space into zones that represent a hospital waiting room at the front, and Adam and Luke’s apartment lurking behind the curtain.

Scene changes are clumsy, the pace bumpy, the acting uneven and the inconsistent production does not successfully balance the comedy and tragedy of Naufft’s play.

Davis has a simple charm as Luke, although it is difficult to accept this apparently educated young man’s stubborn bigotry.

While Redgate captures the nervy bluntness of the insecure hypochondriac, Adam, his unfocussed gaze is distracting and his performance lacks dynamic range and emotional nuance.

Fairfax is sympathetic and credible as Luke’s eccentric and confused mother, Arlene, who abandoned Luke when he was a child to pursue a life without responsibility.

The discomfort of the hospital vigil is increased by the presence of Luke’s belligerent father, played with brutal bluster by Robertson, and Luke’s closeted gay, Christian friend, Brandon (James Biasetto).

Next Fall should be achingly emotional, but the tragedy of Luke’s accident and Adam’s unacknowledged grief and lost love are not fully realised in this production.

By Kate Herbert

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