by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
The 5 & Dime Theatre Company opened a two weekend run of Geoffrey Nauffts Tony Award nominated play, the comedy/drama “Next Fall”. It will run through Sunday the 29th at WJCT located in Metropolitan Park in downtown Jacksonville near Everbank Field. Tickets are $10.00 in advance, or $15.00 at the door. For more information and reservation go to www.The5andDime.org.
This is the story of a gay couple with very different religious beliefs. Luke is a devout Christian while his partner Adam is a confirmed atheist. The play opens in a waiting room at Beth Israel Hospital in New York. The time is after an automobile crash that has Luke in intensive care in a coma.
Everyone who cares about Luke has gathered. Luke’s divorced parents have come from Florida. Arlene (Antoinette D’Amico) is his real mother, but did not raise him after the divorce, which occurred when he was only five years old. Arlene has a wild past and a hippie life style, which led to the divorce. His father, Butch (Isom Steve Philips) remarried shortly after the divorce, is wealthy, and is a no-nonsense Christian
Also in the waiting room is Holly (Kelby Siddons), long time friend to Adam and his former employer. Luke now works part-time in the candle shop she owns and has become a good friend as well. Another person concerned with Luke’s welfare is his long time friend Brandon (Brooks Studier), also gay. Adam, who has been out of town, bursts upon the scene demanding to see Luke so he can reassure himself Luke will recover, but finds that visitors are limited to immediate family. And Adam is, of course, not immediate family.
The plot unfolds in flashbacks from five years prior when Luke and Adam first met at a party given by Holly, then on to their living together in their apartment. We see their relationship develop and their discussions about Luke’s strong belief in God and salvation. Even though he considers himself a sinner in the eyes of the Lord because of his sexual orientation, he is certain heaven awaits him.
Act two has eight scenes, again the waiting room, and apartment in addition two short scenes, one in the temple at the hospital and an encounter in Central Park.
As an audience we are caught up as the characters wrestle with their beliefs, emotions and feelings. Luke is truly concerned about Adam’s dismissal of faith because he wants to be together with Adam in heaven after his death.
Are you curious about the title? Luke has promised Adam he will tell his parents about being gay “next fall,” after his younger brother enters college.
Director Stacy Cobb has assembled a terrific cast that is outstanding and believable. Phillips, as Butch, does not seem to want to believe his son is gay, and he does not consider Adam as part of the family despite his being Luke’s lover. Ms. D’Amico is marvelous and funny as Arlene, the mother and her monologue in Act Two was very moving. Ms. D’Amico is so good in mother roles; we recall her award winning performance in “Rabbit Hole” at Theatre Jacksonville.
The two leading men, Luke and Adam could not have been cast better. The chemistry between Mr. Roberts and Mr. Walz is incredible. Walz plays the younger of the two and is demure, naturally warm, and even a bit shy. Roberts, in contrast is someone with nervous energy, a laundry list of neuroses, and a sense of humor. He is capable of strong emotions as he displays in the final scenes of the show.
The play was performed on the large sound stage of Public Television Station WJCT.The set design by Lee Hamby was simple but very effective. A couch was the main piece of furniture, used in the waiting room and, with some added accessories, in Adam and Luke’s apartment, and finally, it served as a hospital bed. On the rear were projected photos that helped us with the location. These included a long indoor corridor in the hospital, an apartment sky light, and a stained glass window for the temple. The costuming by Lee Hamby was simple casual clothing.
This is adult, thought-provoking material, with sexual references. It is an intelligent well written play that is topical, especially since this is an election year and the presidential candidates have brought up the question of gay marriage and their individual religious beliefs.
There is plentiful free parking. We suggest you go early, so you can take the short walk down to the river and observe the beautiful park space available to Jacksonville residents, some of whom will doubtless be fishing from the shore.
If you appreciate fine acting and directing then don’t miss this production of “Next Fall.”
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM