Religion is an interesting concept. For most of the general public, whether you believe or not, it is very difficult to understand the beliefs of the other side. And it gets even more complex when you throw a relationship on top. That is exactly where the latest production of Next Fall picks up, a beautiful new production which has a powerful message for society as a whole.
Initially brought to Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theatre in 2010 with a producing team including Elton John, Next Fall explores the five-year relationship of Adam and Luke through a series of flashbacks. The play opens in a New York hospital waiting room after Luke has been hit by a car. The room is filled with many of the important members of Luke’s life including Adam, his family and his friends and the play proceeds to show the slow breakdown of initially courteous greetings while the cast wait for news on Luke – while also providing context to each of these relationships through flashbacks to the past.
The conflict at the centre of this play is religion. How does a couple handle their joint lives when one strongly believes in a divine presence and the other doesn’t? And then how does this relationship play out when the deeply religious family get involved? The play does not attempt to solve this problem. Merely try to provide a window for the audience into how both sides justify their beliefs, something which Director Peter Blackburn has cleverly marshalled his talented cast into providing through this series of vignettes.
The role of Luke, played by Mark Davis, presents a dilemma which is deftly presented by the actor. His beliefs contradict with his sexuality. But he has been able to strike a balance between the two that may not be fully fleshed out, and may present many holes to the non-religious, but is beautifully presented through the lens that not everything in life has to be justified. Some things defy belief, and sometimes that is okay as long as you can come to peace with that fact internally.
James Biasetto has quite the opposite role to play as Luke’s friend Brandon. Unlike Luke whose life is out in the open to the audience from the beginning, Brandon keeps his cards close to his chest. But James has taken a role which reveals very little to the audience until the final few scenes and manages to communicate a few tiny, tantalizing clues as to what his story might be. Not enough to make us accurately predict what is coming for his character, but just enough to keep us enthralled despite a myriad of other competing stories. And when it all comes out in the end, it isn’t what you expect.
Sharon Davis and Kaarin Fairfax are given the enviable job of providing moments of comic relief against a largely serious play. Each of their characters has a serious story to tell, but they provide some much needed levity in exactly the right amount to sustain the audience through the crux of the play which is the relationship between Luke’s father and Adam. A traditional, religious man and his son’s boyfriend. You can guess how this relationship might go. But these two performers, Paul Robertson and Darrin Redgate, take the audience on a huge journey of growth from both sides which highlights the importance of accepting others for who they might be and acknowledging their different world-view. But sometimes it takes a dramatic event to reach this space.
Next Fall is a beautiful show which carefully and meaningfully tackles the one topic which we are always advised to steer clear of in public. Religion. Neither side is right or wrong, but there is a powerful message which society can learn from this production.
Next Fall is playing at Chapel off Chapel’s Loft until the 30th July. For more information and to book tickets visit www.chapeloffchapel.com.au