by Gregory Nauffs
Directed by Sheryl Kaller
Peter Jay Sharp Theatre / 42nd Street
A Production of Naked Angels

Reviewed by David Spencer

The heat of family drama combined with the clash of spiritual ideologies fuels Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts, which is abetted by a splendid cast and pitch-perfect direction by Sheryl Kaller.

                  Injured and in a coma, 20sh Luke (Patrick Heusinger) is in intensive care. Holding vigil at the hospital are his divorced parents from the midwest, conservative, reserved Butch (Cotter Smith) and gregarious Arlene (Connie Ray) Also, among others, Adam (Patrick Breen), Luke’s live-in lover.

                  Complication #1: Luke’s parents don’t know about Adam as lover nor Luke’s orientation. Complication #2, dramatized in flashbacks chronicling the Luke-Adam relationship: Luke was raised to be an evangelical Christian, believing in Christ as the only salvation from Hell, which angers Jewish-born atheist/rationalist/Darwinist Adam, because the ideological divide has insinuated itself into their everyday life. Complication #3: Luke, in believing the literal word of the Bible, also believes his own homosexuality is a sin.

                  Facing Luke’s parents and their beliefs, will Adam in his anger “out” their son? And if he does, and Luke never wakes, will Luke be perceived to have “died in his sins”?

                  The conflict between liberal rationalism and conservative fundamentalism has long been screaming for passionate, even-handed, primary-focus dramatization, yet it has heretofore been avoided as if The Last Taboo. But playwright Nauffts has finally broken the ice, devising an ideal scenario and position-specific characters to throw its dynamics into high relief—with equal doses of humor and pathos.

                  Like any dramatic icebreaker, it’s only a beginning. But in the grand tradition of other issue plays that led the way—The Boys in the Band, A Raisin in the Sun, As Is, Days of Wine and Roses—it lays the groundwork for further exploration with all the focused clarity of a primer…and should remain in the repertory of contemporary American plays for a long time.

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