Luke is a young man in his 20s who is a true believer – in God that is. He’s a committed Christian and a man who prays. He falls for a 40-year-old hypochondriac, Adam (Darren Redgate), who is an atheist. Next Fall, by American playwright Geoffrey Nauffts, is set in New York and portrays the ups and downs of this unlikely couple’s five-year relationship.
At the start of the production, a serious accident finds Luke (Mark Davis) in hospital in a coma. (He is spoken about but isn’t introduced until later.) His family and friends gather in a waiting room. Luke’s parents – Butch (Paul Robinson) and Arlene (Kaarin Fairfax) – split up years ago. His father took it badly when Luke gave up legal studies for acting. He views gays even more harshly, so Luke hasn’t told him he is gay. As the action unfolds in flashbacks, we get to witness his awkward interaction with Adam.
Produced on Broadway by Elton John and his partner David Furnish, Next Fall was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play in 2010. This production is directed by Peter Blackburn.
My plaudits are more muted, because I struggled with it. This includes many of the so-called lighter touches, which had clearly been written with humour in mind. (I barely raised a smile.) I felt the pacing wasn’t quite right, nor the energy. And I wasn’t convinced by some of the acting among the six-member cast. Sharon Davis though was a standout as Adam’s employer and friend, Holly. The only other actor in the show I haven’t yet mentioned is James Biasetto, who plays Brandon, a bible-carrying mate (and emergency contact) of Luke.
I found the opening scene ponderous and dull. That was when we really should be building a connection with the characters. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the love. Also, what happens to Luke is signaled too early on for my liking. The element of surprise is lacking. I know that has to do with the writing rather than the acting or staging, but, still, that could have been handled better.
Given the emotional edge to the story, I would have expected to tear up, but didn’t even come close. I put that down to the fact that I mostly didn’t find the characters sympathetic enough. The warmth I was looking for was lacking.
That takes nothing away from the importance of the issues that come under the microscope, including the authority and rights of long-term gay partners.
I thought the second act had more power and impact than the first. But overall, while not without merit in terms of subject matter, Next Fall fell short of my expectations. With a running time of two hours and 15 minutes, including a 20-minute interval, it is playing at Chapel off Chapel until 30 July 2017.
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, Prahran, Melbourne
Dates: 12 – 30 July 2017
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- The Dumb Waiter (Chapel off Chapel) – theatre review
- Rent (Chapel off Chapel) – theatre review
- Bare the Musical (StageArt) – theatre review
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television