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Theatre Review: Next Fall brilliantly questions love and faith

Anne Evans Anne Evans Theatre Review: Next Fall brilliantly questions love and faith
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How many lines do you cross or slightly shift in your own personal relationships? Would you fall in love with someone who doesn’t necessarily share all of your own beliefs? Or maybe with someone who isn’t honest about himself with their family and therefore isn’t honest about your relationship? If a medical issue came up, would your loved one be able to deal with it?

CATCO’s newest production Next Fall, explores themes of love and faith in the context of contemporary gay rights issues. The play is written by Ohio native Geoffrey Nauffts and directed by Jimmy Bohr. Steven C. Anderson, artistic director at CATCO, and Bohr saw the play two years ago in New York within a week of each other and were both taken with it.

“It’s rare to see a play about religion and spirituality that does not preach. Instead, Next Fall gently explores each character’s perspective and leaves the audience to decide,” said Anderson.

Actors (from left to right) Tim Simeone (Brandon), Ralph Scott (Butch), Anne Diehl (Arlene), Cole Simon (Luke), Jon Osbeck (Adam) and Ginna Hoben (Holly) star in CATCO’s upcoming production of Next Fall. Photo credit: Dave Alkire.

Cole Simon stars as Luke, an aspiring actor and gay man who is out to everyone except his brother and their fundamentalist Christian parents. While waitering at a party, Luke meets Adam, played by Jon Osbeck, on a rooftop and knows immediately that they are soulmates and meant for each other. Adam is not so sure at first, but does agree to a date. The two get along splendid, despite their age difference. However, Luke’s commitment to Jesus creates some issues between the pair, as Adam is an Atheist. The play is not afraid to “go to Jesusland” and explores some of the conundrums that people who are both gay and religious face. How can you continue to live in a way that is said to be sin?

Adam is continually upset that Luke has not come out to his family and feels he is being hidden. Luke promises he will come out to them “Next Fall” when his little brother enters college and can decide for himself what he wishes to believe, instead of having his parents’ beliefs forced on him.

Luke holds Adam in an embrace. Photo by Dave Alkire.

Luke’s father Butch, played by Ralph E. Scott, struggles with knowing his son is gay and not wanting to admit it or talk about it. He says he will be fine with him being an actor, but that is as far as he’ll go. Butch is a very strong character who displays much bigotry and racism that Scott found hard to embrace. He said that once he thought about it as something learned through family, it was easier to show it. How can a father ignore such a big part of his son’s life? Next Fall brings home the point that when someone you’ve known for their whole life embraces who they are, it is not something to shun or ignore. They are still the same person you’ve always loved.

Next Fall opens with Luke getting in a serious accident and going into a coma. The scenes in the hospital are a mix of laughter and tense emotion. The play is told through 5 years of memories leading up to the present. The first act is energetic and moving which earns the cast the long moments of thoughtful silence that emphasize the seriousness of the second act.

Director Jimmy Bohr really explored how much time to give the moments of silence. He doesn’t push or force them and they add so much emotion to the play.

“We could live in the moment and not worry about having to move on to the next line,” said Ginna Hoben, who played Holly, Luke and Adam’s friend and boss.

It’s really fun to watch Osbeck animate the stage. Adam is a somewhat nervous, slightly hypochondriac middle-aged man who isn’t sure where he wants his life to be. Meeting Luke puts him on a path with direction. Osbeck’s interactions with every character are a joy to watch, whether he is delivering wonderfully funny punch lines, or a heated argument.

Next Fall will leave you rethinking some of your own beliefs and your interactions with others.

Next Fall opens tonight, Friday, March 16 at 8pm at Studio Two in the Riffe Center. Run time is 2 and a half hours with a 15 minute intermission. Performances are almost daily through April 1, 2012. The play was nominated for a Tony Award for Best New Play in 2010. Tickets are $32.50 for preview performances, $11.50 for [email protected] matinees, and $40 for all other performances. For Next Fall, the Half-Price Happy Hour, where tickets and drinks are half price, is Thursday, March 22, at 8 p.m. There will be talkbacks after the Sunday, March 18 and March 25, matinees. Please check CATCO’s website for details and tickets.

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