Feb 9, 2012

[Theater] Next Fall (Repertory Philippines)

The first quarter of the year is one of the busiest times for theater buffs like myself. It feels like almost every single theater group in the metro is determined to up all their shows within such a limited period of time that it's hard to map out which one to watch first. And given overlapping play dates, it becomes very possible that one will end up "sacrificing" one show over the other due to a sheer lack of opportunity.

And throw in the fact that my call center schedule eliminates most chances of watching week night performances, I'm limited to juggling my weekends between quality time with the boyfriends, my writing, our gaming sessions and a heck of a lot more. But one way or another, we find time for a bit of culture here and there.

We were somewhat fortunate to manage to find time to catch the last show of this particular play before the season wrapped up. Plus it became a bit of a "triple-date" for the three of us, which was indeed a lovely time together.

But as for the play itself, well, let's discuss that at length.

Next Fall is a play written by Geoffrey Nauffts that opened off-Broadway back in 2009 and finally made it to Broadway itself by 2010. The show was nominated for multiple Outstanding / Best Play awards although failed to bag any for that particular awards season.

The story centers around a somewhat unlikely gay couple - staunch atheist Adam (Bart Guingona) and devoted Christian Luke (David Bianco). At the start of the play, we are slowly introduced to the small cast of characters as they gather in a hospital waiting room. Luke has gotten into an accident and thus his divorced parents, Butch (Miguel Faustmann) and Arlene (Juno Henares) arrive on the scene joining friends Holly (Liesl Batucan) and Brandon (Niccolo Manahan) and eventually Adam.

Thus the play starts to bring us back to the beginning of Adam and Luke's 5 year relationship in a series of flashbacks interwoven with the continuing drama at the hospital. The two had met one night at a party where Adam was outside trying to clear his head while Luke happened to be a cater waiter for the night. And as is the way of such things, one thing led to another and the two spent the night together. Thus it wasn't until the day after that Adam learned of Luke's devout beliefs in contrast to his atheism. But we know that these two form a long and lasting relationship and thus we get to explore how the two come together over the course of the past few years.

Now this is one of those plays that feels distinctly New York in terms of mood and place setting. Many stories use New York as a primary setting, but the story itself could have taken place almost anywhere. This was definitely not one of those types of stories given how firmly it wanted to keep things based in the city. In this regard, it reminded me of the kind of tone we've experienced in Jonathan Larson productions.

But given the strength of the setting, that made things a little awkward in terms of how this play was handled. There was a distinct sense of the actors trying to adopt various accents in order to be in character somehow that ended up sounding a tad weird, at least for us. I'm not saying that accents are not warranted in theater productions - period pieces rely on them quite heavily after all. But in this case, the accents just weren't consistently right or even just consistent with a few odd shifts here and there. Save perhaps for Bianco and Faustmann, their reliance on simulated New York accents felt like a bit more of a distraction than anything else.

However, the story of the play is nicely rich and complex. With the setup alone, you know you're going to have to deal with religious differences, estranged parents and all the other fun issues that come with being gay to boot. And they even added in a mid-life crisis, the awkwardness of US hospital visitation rules outside of family members

I think the gem performance here, at least on the night we watched, was defnitely from Juno Henares as Luke's mother Arlene. She carried her character rather well from start to finish and she really helped me feel that she was committed to the role. Everyone else was decent enough for the most part, but somewhat lacking in ways I can't put my finger on. And yes, I include Miguel Faustmann in this consideration, especially since we've more powerful performances from him in other Rep productions.

But I'm still glad that we got to watch this play. Next Fall is the kind of complex LGBT tale that deserves to be told and is an interesting exploration of the challenges of religious belief in the context of a homosexual relationship. This local staging still gets 3.5 pumpkin spice candles out of a possible 5.

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  1. What were your favorite scenes and lines from the play?

  2. Parang school lang - pang-reaction paper ba to? =D