Fine performances in fragile love story
By Myron My
Being in love is never easy. Geoffrey Naufft’s Next Fall tells the story of Adam and Luke, a gay couple who begin a relationship spawning five years before tragedy strikes when Luke is hit by a car. Opening with Luke’s friends, family and Adam gathering at a hospital waiting room to hear news on his outcome, the story flashes back to various moments in the lives of both Adam and Luke and those closest to them.
Each flashback builds on 40-year-old Adam’s (Darrin Redgate) frustration over where his life is heading, and Luke’s (Mark Davis) attempts to reconcile his sexuality with his Christian faith. Redgate does a capable job as the neurotic candle-seller who seems to be subconsciously attempting to self-sabotage his chances at ever finding happiness, even when it’s staring at him right in the face. Davis evokes a naive self-assuredness in Luke with regards to his dogmatic beliefs, but he is also able to bring out a warmth and kindness to him as his relationship with Adam grows.
Kaarin Fairfax simultaneously brings fragility and strength to Arlene, Luke’s mother. A touching scene between her and Adam displays Fairfax’s ability to convey the deep emotions her character is feeling without resorting to overt dramatics. Sharon Davis as Holly delivers a solid performance as the supportive friend for both Adam and Luke, with her subtle comedic timing allowing us to momentarily forget the impending tragedy.
Unfortunately I felt Paul Robertson‘s performance as Luke’s homophobic father Butch needed further development in allowing us to understand the nuances of the character. Throughout the story Luke has an intense fear of his father finding out about his sexuality – and yet nothing eventuates from this, even when Butch comes across Adam and Luke during a moment of intimacy, which I found very unsatisfying. Similarly, the character of Brandon (James Biasetto) in this production feels more like an outsider looking in and even during his flashback scene with Adam, Brandon doesn’t reveal anything to the audience that we are not already aware of.
Peter Blackburn takes care in his direction to not rush the story and otherwise allows the characters and their relationships time to develop organically. The set design by James Lew is interesting in that it suggests that the past and present are inextricably linked, however the set changes where an actor appears in the waiting room for a few seconds for no other purpose than to give time for the crew to prepare the stage for the next scene feel very much like filler rather than substance.
While religion and getting old are major themes explored in Next Fall, it is ultimately a touching love story between two people. As such, Naufft’s script may be a formulaic play with no real surprises, but the dedicated performances from this cast are what turn this production into a story worth sharing.