Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts, now running at the Main Street Players in Miami Lakes, focuses on Adam and Luke, two gay men in a committed relationship who struggle to stay connected despite major differences in religious beliefs. When staunch Christian Luke falls into a coma after a car accident, atheist Adam doesn’t seem to know where to turn for support and the play unfolds through a series of flashbacks juxtaposed against several present day scenes at the hospital where Luke’s well-meaning friends and conservative parents are camping out.
The couples’ shared apartment and the hospital room are both on stage at all times but other locations—a night club, various exteriors—are created with additional set pieces moved on and off stage by a crew that doesn’t realize they are ruining the pacing of the play. It is hardly their fault. The stage space at this intimate jewel box space is miniscule and set designer Michael Stopnick has made it seem smaller by cramming too much realistic detail into it. The set looks handsome enough. It is clean and contemporary but as the action gets going, it proves to be totally impractical and at times, claustrophobic. Because of the clear delineation between apartment and waiting room, the actors have nowhere to roam during their scenes. One particularly awkward moment occurred when Luke’s mother, Arlene (played by an appropriately loopy Rachel Stone) goes on a quiet search for a missing pill bottle. Because of the restrictions of the set, she runs out of places to look pretty quickly and then has to stand around waiting for a cue line that seems like it will never come. Some of the scene changes are downright unnecessary—do we really need to remove one kind of bench only to replace it with another one—and interminable—I clocked one at a full minute—which ruins the movement of the play’s breezy, time jumping structure.
Larry Chidsey and Daniel Gomez lead the play as Adam and Luke, respectively, and are, unfortunately, the play’s weakest links in terms of performance. Chidsey in particular is stiff and awkward on stage; he comments on every line that comes out of his mouth. Gomez, as his counterpart, is lukewarm. He throws away important moments and lacks a sense of urgency throughout.
Liz Dikinson as Holly, a self-proclaimed “fag hag” and the owner of a candle shop where Luke works, gives the most skillful performance. Her witty lines are delivered succinctly with just the right amount of sarcasm and self-awareness. The rest of the cast members give well-meaning, and at times, poignant performances. Rachel Stone as Luke’s mom Arlene and Harry Marsh as his father, the Tea Party villain, Butch, are fun to watch and they do their best with somewhat clichéd characters. Stone’s best moment is during a scene with Chidsey at the hospital, towards the end of the play when all hope seems lost that Luke might wake up. She taps into the more down-to-earth side of her character, delivering advice and comfort that come from a genuine place. Michael Fernandez is solid in the underwritten role of Brandon, Luke’s estranged, closeted friend. Overall, there are some honest moments from the cast who struggle to find a consistent tone in this play that is all at once very funny and deeply moving.