“Next Fall” – Actors Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ October 31, 2011


Actors Theatre, Stage West, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Although Actors Theatre is embroiled in a severe financial crisis that may close the company, their latest production, “Next Fall,” is a powerful dramatic work, stunningly staged, and brilliantly acted.  It’s the best Actors Theatre production ever and that’s from a company that consistently does remarkable work.

Everything about “Next Fall” works.  Geoffrey Nauffts elegantly written dramaedy tackles critical contemporary issues with amazing insights but the serious issues are balanced with raucous humor.  Nauffts’ ideas are topical and contemporary as it explores a five-year gay relationship between middle-aged Adam, a nebbish hypochondriac, and Luke, a younger hottie.  The play opens after Luke’s been hit by a Manhattan taxi and is in a coma.  Gathered at the hospital are the pair’s two best friends, Holly and Brandon, plus Luke’s divorced parents, talkative Arlene and critical Butch.  Luke hasn’t discussed his sexual orientation with his parents.  As the play proceeds, Luke’s condition worsens as flashbacks introduce the pair’s less-than-perfect relationship including Luke’s religious beliefs and Adam’s atheism.

Religion’s power to pull followers through tragic situations, the lack of gay partners’ rights in life threatening situations, and deciding when life is over are thoughtfully explored.  The playwright doesn’t provide answers just meticulous explorations of each critical topic.

Matthew Weiner’s superlative production moves beautifully from the present to the past with effortless ease but the thoughtful staging never lets you forget how past decisions have led these characters to current consequences.

Many familiar local actors embark on very different roles than they usually play and all convey them exquisitely.  Robert Kolby Harper brings great depth to Adam’s many nuances as he reveals the character’s pain at being rejected, his strength in fighting at a critical moment, and his true commitment to Luke.  Chance Dean’s Luke has the perfect touch of flighty abandon coupled with the overriding fear of being truthful with his conservative parents.  Debra K. Stevens touching but chatty Arlene expresses amazing understanding when she realizes her son’s relationship with Adam.  David Vining is a matter-of-fact Butch until a heartfelt moment late in the play causes him to break down.  Andi Watson’s Holly, the woman who understands the difficulties of her friends’ relationship, strongly holds difficult situations together.  David Dickinson’s stiff Brandon expresses his devotion to the pair but cleverly hides his own secret.

“Next Fall” explores eloquently many cutting edge situations and the Actors Theatre staging brings the play to local audiences in a superlative production.  it continues to November 13.  Don’t miss it.  For tickets, call the Herberger Theater Center box office at 602-252-8497 or order tickets online at www.atphx.org.

Grade: A


2 Responses to ““Next Fall” – Actors Theatre”

  1. Kyle Lawson said:

    Nov 01, 11 at 15:51

    This is a very incisive, thoughtful review, Chris. I’m proud of you.

  2. Vanessa Goldberg said:

    Nov 10, 11 at 13:46

    Your reviews have been my fail-safe guide in choosing theater performances in the Valley. So, if YOU say it’s a “must”, I know I have to go … and will, with friends, on Sunday. Thank you, Chris!