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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
NEXT FALL
at the Helen Hayes

FAITH AND SEXUALITY
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Maddie Corman, Patrick Breen and Patrick Heusinger/ Ph: Carol Rosegg

In a season saturated with retro-oriented gay plays, it’s heartening to see a contemporary stunner like Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts (artistic director of Naked Angels). With its recent transfer to Broadway, this comedy-laced drama about an improbable but fully believable gay couple has proved its crossover power, and the topic couldn’t be timelier.
 
Adam (Patrick Breen) is a cynical, agnostic, hypochondriacally inclined New Yorker who meets his beloved, Luke (Patrick Heusinger), through a fluke of fate when the handsome, much younger cater-waiter rescues him with a Heimlich maneuver. There’s just one hitch: Luke is an evangelical Christian who hasn’t fully accepted his sexual orientation. Adam tries not to take offense at the fact that Luke feels compelled to pray for forgiveness after sex – or to take too seriously Luke’s concern that Adam will be doomed for eternity, not for his sexual preference and practices (both of which Luke considers repentable) but for his nonbelief.
 
At the outset of the play, however, it’s Luke, not Adam, who is posed at death’s portal. He’s in a coma, having been struck by a taxi. We get to know the two men, and the ordinary joys of their four-year relationship, in the course of flashbacks as Adam sits vigil in the hospital waiting room. He’s kept company there by their mutual employer, Holly (Maddie Corman), a ditsy but good-hearted self-improvement junkie, and another friend (Sean Dugan), who is mysteriously aloof. Soon they’re joined by Luke’s divorced parents: Butch (Cotter Smith), something of a Southern-bigot cliché, and the more liberal-minded Arlene (marvelously earthy Connie Ray), a reformed party-girl.
 
Sooner or later, Luke’s parents are going to have to come to terms with the fact that Adam is more than “a good friend.” The road to this revelation is improbably comic (the flashback scene in which Butch visits Luke’s hastily de-gayed “bachelor pad” could pass for Neil Simon), and the emotional build-up – as Adam grows ever more desperate to assert his proper place by Luke’s side – all the more wrenching.
 
Until the rights of gay couples are legally ensured, scenarios like this one will play out daily in hospitals across the country (except in a few enlightened states). Nauffts has performed an invaluable service in encapsulating an important issue in one very particular, and very moving, story.
 

 


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