Review: Implausible script mars 'Next Fall'
With "Next Fall," which opened Thursday at Teatro Zuccone, director Quentin Roth picked a thorny project for his first endeavor, and only succeeded partially in taming it.
Playwright Geoffrey Nauffts' story has Luke (Aaron Jordan-Peterson) lying comatose in a hospital after being hit by a car as his lover, Adam (Greg J. Anderson); his divorced parents, Butch (Ric Stevens) and Arlene (Kay Rieck); and a couple of friends, Holly (Jennie Ross) and Brandon (Stephen Bock) gather in the waiting room.
In a series of vignette flashbacks, we learn how Luke and Adam met and that Luke is a devout Christian while Adam is an assertive atheist, that Adam is frustrated with his life as a failed writer and 40-year-old candle salesman, and Luke has not come out to his parents. The flashbacks are interspersed with scenes in the waiting room as Luke's condition deteriorates.
Roth's biggest problem is the implausibility of the script's central idea: that two people with such profound differences over as fundamental issue as religiosity could build a relationship that lasted years.
But then again, the two men's first discussion of the subject was the most thought-provoking scene in the play. Luke's belief is that we are all sinners, who can be saved only by accepting Jesus as our savior, who died for our sins. Failing that, though, he believed, even the most righteous will not be saved.
In answer to Adam's challenge, Luke even concedes that the men who tortured gay Matthew Shepard to death in a notorious 1998 hate crime would go to heaven if they accepted Jesus, where Shepard, if he had not, would not.
Roth's secondary challenge is a cast that could create distinct and credible characters could not, paradoxically, have their characters relate to each other in any believable way, whether tenderly or in rage. Only Ross, as Holly, seemed to be truly hearing and sincerely trying to be heard by the others.
Anderson, on the other hand, restricted himself to a narrow range -- all anger and scorn, which, aside from being tiresome, swamped much of the humor in Nauffts' dialog. It was the intensity with which he has Adam deride and mock Luke's beliefs that emphasized the fallacy of the script.
Anderson's intensity served well, however, when Roth had him stand down front, reminiscing, ruminating and agonizing silently, during long and clunky set changes -- that would have been better handled with lighting. His face spoke volumes.
For that matter, Jordan-Peterson did some of his best work wordlessly, as well. His face as he sat alone after flinching from his intention to come out to his father said more about Luke's character than all his lines.
Paul Brissett is a Duluth writer and amateur actor who has appeared in numerous community theater productions.
If you go
What: Son of Peter Productions' "Next Fall"
Where: Teatro Zuccone, 222 E. Superior St.
When: 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday and Thursday-Saturday through March 1
How much: $15, but $12 for students and seniors
For information: teatrozuccone.com or (218) 336-1414