Geoffrey Nauffts’ Next Fall, now running at Trustus Theatre, was Tony-nominated for Best Play, and won the Outer Critics Award. As detailed in press material, "this contemporary play explores relationships, faith, family, and the very current topic of same-sex rights in hospitals. The show chronicles the five-year relationship between Luke and Adam. With Luke being devoutly religious and Adam being an atheist – their love and their principles are often tested. However, when an accident changes everything, Adam is forced to examine what it means to 'believe' and what it will cost if he doesn’t." Visiting Director Sharon Graci previously directed the show at Charleston’s PURE Theatre. Trustus Artistic Director Dewey Scott-Wiley notes that “Next Fall asks a lot of important questions about love, family, religion, and civil rights, and how the questions get answered within the context of a same-sex relationship. What is most wonderful about Next Fall, however, is that many of the questions are left for the audience to answer. There is nothing predictable or didactic about the show."
That said, every audience member brings a different perspective to any show. Jasper Literary Editor Ed Madden, Theatre Editor August Krickel, and guest critic Stephen Kish all had drastically differing takes on the production. One felt the show delivered an important message, one was looking for much more of a message, and one felt the message was less important than the love story. All enjoyed the performances by G. Scott Wild, Jason Stokes, and Kim Harne, and all to some extent felt the supporting cast were under-used, especially in the first act. One liked the use of miming in place of props but didn't think it was always accomplished that well by the cast, while another admired the actors' mastery of the technique, but didn't like its use to begin with. Two weren't wild about the creative scene changes, while one loved them. So go figure. Jasper encourages and indeed embraces diversity of opinion, and urges everyone to go see the show, and decide for yourself.
Ed Madden's take on the show - with some editorial thoughts on the larger societal context of some of the issues raised, can be found here. August Krickel's review can be found here and here. And guest blogger Stephen Kish's review is below:
A familiar feeling crept over me while sitting in the audience of Geoffrey Nauffts's Next Fall - I’ve seen this before. A simple setup starts us off. Friends and family gather after Luke (Jason Stokes) is critically injured in a car accident. We have every type of stock character: the chatty, overbearing mother (Kim Harne), the female co-worker (Brandi Smith) who loves hanging out with gay men, the father (Stanford Gardner) who can't accept the truth about his son, and Adam (G. Scott Wild), the cynical, religion-hating lover of comatose Luke. There is hope, briefly, that this may all play out like a Flannery O'Connor story, wherein characters from different backgrounds clash over fundamental ideals, ultimately leading to some great epiphany - but that would be reaching to hope for such greatness. Sadly, Next Fall, plays out like a Lifetime Movie, but without any of the fun.
To be fair, it isn't the fault of the actors or even the director; the material never rises to the occasion, and never is the feeling of grief or loss truly seen or felt by anyone. There are, nevertheless, very good parts within this production. Kim Harne as Luke's very Southern, very chatty mother is altogether fun in her performance. The rest of the cast didn't fare as well. Jason Stokes as Luke is likeable and charming, as is G. Scott Wild as Adam. They do not, however, possess any chemistry as lovers. This presents a large problem during the staging of the play, as their relationship is the main drama. The remainder of the cast was under-utilized, and didn't make much of a lasting impression.
The direction, by Sharon Graci, presents problems early on due to some strange choreography choices that alert the audience to scene changes. There was a moment when the cast is moving chairs, an enjoyable pop song is playing, and I truly thought they were going to burst out into a full-on musical number, but of course they were just setting up the next scene. Things like this jar the audience out of the experience, and take away much of the dramatic tension.
With this feeling of familiarity persistent throughout the performance, I wasn't sure how to feel. In many ways, this is just another story of a closeted gay man who can't face his fundamentalist father; there was nothing new explored, just more of the same. There could have been so much more that could have been said here, but the script happily meanders the entire time, never becoming edgy, or delivering anything more than a heavy-handed message. I wanted more from this play, but sadly didn't get it. Then again, not everything has to be life-changing or challenging.
~ Stephen Kish
Next Fall runs through Saturday, November 10th, on the Thigpen Main Stage at Trustus. Tickets are $22.00 for adults, $20.00 for military and seniors, and $15.00 for students. Half-price Student Rush-Tickets are available 15 minutes prior to curtain if seating is available.
Trustus Theatre is located at 520 Lady Street, behind the Gervais St. Publix. Parking is available on Lady St. and on Pulaski St. The Main Stage entrance is located on the Publix side of the building.
For more information or reservations call the box office Tuesdays through Saturdays 1-6 pm at 803-254-9732. Visit www.trustus.org for all show information and season information.