Next Fall runs two story threads alongside each other, never converging. One is a series of flashbacks – Luke and Adam falling in love, navigating a relationship made difficult due to Luke being Christian while Adam is an atheist, as well as Luke hiding his sexuality from his family.
The other is present day – Adam and Luke’s family and friends at the hospital, waiting for Luke to wake from a coma after he’s struck by a car. Adam and Luke’s father, Butch, begin to clash as Luke remains in critical condition.
One of the essential aspects of Next Fall is to remind its audience that there’s still so far to go; the act of coming out, for some, is a painful, terrifying act. As much as the play may set itself up as a science Vs faith conflict, the true conflict is the fear the character Luke has of coming out to his family – particularly to his father.
There’s a clock suspended above the stage, but it only has a second hand. At first it seems like part of the set dressing, reinforcing the feeling that in hospital waiting rooms that wait can seem interminable. However, by the final scene, it almost becomes a countdown, a reminder of the finite time any of us have. We can have that time cut short without warning, but we can also find love and community.
Adam is the worse kind of atheist, smug and rude. Darrin Redgate played the role well, shifting – as scenes and jumping time-lines required – from jerk to tender to condescending to grief stricken to back again. Mark Davis had a lovely turn as Luke, particularly in the way his absence is felt by the present storyline, a reflection of the fine work being done in the flashbacks.
Kaarin Fairfax was a delight as Luke’s mother, Arlene. Perhaps, ‘delight’ is too effervescent a word for what is an engaging portrayal of a character enduring unimaginable heartache.
What’s nice about Geoffrey Nauffts’ script is that Luke’s father, Butch, isn’t an ignorant man. He’s intelligent with sophisticated tastes, yet the ferocity of his faith is such that he’s backed into a homophobic corner, dark territory he’s unwilling to leave despite what he knows about Luke. Despite his repugnant qualities, Paul Robertson played Butch and all his complexities in compelling fashion.
Sharon Davis and James Biasetto played Adam and Luke’s friends, Holly and Brandon, respectively. These were nice performances, giving the atmosphere of the hospital waiting room more weight and tension than would have been there otherwise.
Some moments were a little unclear, such as a flashback to a cold autumn conversation between Adam and Brandon. Dried leaves set in the ceiling and released were too heavy so plummeted to the ground in an unexpectedly amusing establishing shot (perhaps it would be better if the lights were dimmed for 10 seconds to give the stagehand a chance to come out with the coat and scarf for Brandon, lay a short line of crumbled autumn detritus in front of the bench to confirm the season, then exit?).
While the set was minimal, the good thing was that set didn’t matter. What worked were the relationships, scenes between two or more – whether in conflict or communion. Next Fall, ended up being as sweet as a biscuit sandwich.
Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Performance: Friday 14 July 2017 – 8.00pm
Season continues to 30 July 2017
Information and Bookings: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au
Image: Darrin Redgate and Mark Davis star in Next Fall (supplied)
Review: David Collins