‘Next Fall’ drama wrestles with faith, sexuality

'Next Fall' drama wrestles with questions of faith, sexuality

Review: The Syracuse University production tackles themes of life after death and gay Christian identity.
Published: November 13, 2018 | Updated: November 16th, 2018 at 1:27 am
Rupert Krueger and Nick Turturro in the Syracuse University Department of Drama production of
Rupert Krueger and Nick Turturro in the Syracuse University Department of Drama production of "Next Fall."

The plot of Next Fall is one that draws audiences in with a laugh and then packs them with a punch. What started as a humorous night at the theatre for Syracuse University students, staff and visitors on Nov. 10 turned into a conversation about life, death, and the afterlife, as well as what it means to be a gay Christian man.

The SU Drama Department’s production of Geoffrey Nauffts’ emotional play will run until Nov. 17 at Syracuse Stage. The show follows the love arc of Adam and Luke, a couple who lives together in New York City for five years before Luke, a spirited aspiring actor, suffers an accident that leaves him comatose. The play opens in the hospital sitting room, where Adam waits to find out the condition of his partner.

The show features a small, six-person cast comprised of juniors and seniors in the drama program. Director and Drama Department chair Ralph Zito expressed in the program notes the importance of the show, mentioning a “deep concern about the many recent attacks to the rights that [gay men] fought so hard to have recognized.”

Justin Slepicoff and Nick Turturro in the Syracuse University Department of Drama production of
Justin Slepicoff and Nick Turturro in the Syracuse University Department of Drama production of "Next Fall."

Throughout the play, Luke’s fervent Christianity proves a main source of conflict as Adam, an atheist, struggles to understand Luke’s belief that God created a perfect plan for everyone. Luke’s parents, old-fashioned Evangelicals, don’t even know about their son’s sexual orientation or Adam’s existence until they meet in the hospital after Luke’s accident, where Adam is forced to confront them.

The audience looks back on the couple’s relationship through a series of flashbacks as Adam reflects on life with his dying partner and their conflicts over faith. In one memory, Luke storms out of the apartment he and Adam are moving into and Adam asks their best friend Holly what she thinks about Luke’s faith. She tries to stay out of it, but tells Adam that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks and that it only matters what he thinks.

Though Justin Slepicoff and Nick Turturro delivered moving performances as Luke and Adam, Kendra Kirby stole the show with her magnetic performance as Luke’s mom, Arlene. With an exaggerated southern drawl, Arlene served as comic relief until the very end, mispronouncing the word “tchotchke” and talking about her Chihuahua as if it were a person.

The character of the show is one of conflict, grief, reflection, and love, and it is best summed up by a flashback scene in which hypochondriac Adam is convinced he has a brain tumor. The two fight once more, and Luke says that even this must be part of God’s plan. After reconciling, they take sleeping pills with hopes of getting some rest, and Luke compares it to an act of faith.

“If it were that easy, who wouldn’t swallow it?” Adam says.

Avatar for Casey Russell

is a senior magazine journalism major.