Monday, February 28, 2011

Caldwell Theatre Company: Next Fall (4 reviews)

The Caldwell Theatre production of Geoffrey Naufft's Next Fall on February 20, 2011.
The play is about two gay men in a committed relationship with a twist, with one being devoutly religious and the other a militant atheist. Next Fall portrays the ups and downs of this unlikely couple’s five-year relationship (and how they make it work despite their differences) with sharp humor and unflinching honesty. And when an accident changes everything, Adam must turn to Luke’s family and friends for support… and answers. Next Fall paints a beautiful and funny portrait of modern romance, asking the hard questions about commitment, love, and faith. This timely and compelling new American play forces us all to examine what it means to "believe" and what it might cost us not to.
Michael Hall directed a cast that included Joshua Canfield, Tom Wahl, Christopher Kent, Irene Adjan, Dennis Bateman, and Pat Nesbitt.

Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
Although Next Fall, directed by Michael Hall and written by Geoffrey Nauffts, gives us nothing new or particularly enthralling in its arguments over Christianity and atheism and the political left and right, Tom Wahl as Adam and Josh Canfield as Luke are strong and well backed by Pat Nesbit as Luke's mother, Dennis Bateman as his father, Christopher Kent as Luke's former lover and Irene Adjan as a candle shop owner, a role that seems superfluous to the story.

So what's to like? The appealingly clever set by Tim Bennett, the large video screen and sound by Dustin Hamilton, the original piano music by John Fitzgibbon during the scene changes and the lighting by Thomas Salzman.

Hap Erstein reviewed for The Palm Beach Post:
Director Michael Hall has taken a break from retirement to stage Next Fall with such efficiency and delicacy that he deserves to be brought back for such duties on a regular basis.
Tom Wahl’s Adam is a likable neurotic... The extremely buff Canfield refuses to settle for a caricature of a religious zealot, and while Nauffts never quite makes the case for why these two men have been able to get beyond their differences for so long, Wahl and Canfeld radiate an affection that is undeniable.
Dennis Bateman also manages to make Luke’s dad, Butch, a fully dimensional character rather than a mere stereotypical bigot. But the standout performance comes from Pat Nesbit as his former wife Arlene, a tough cookie who is still making apologies for Butch long after she has to.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
...under Michael Hall’s sensitive direction at the Caldwell Theatre Friday night Next Fall expanded its vision, becoming a powerfully moving examination of the
difficulty of maintaining the most intimate relationships despite
profound differences between human beings.
Next Fall is a validation and valediction of Hall’s career: his excavating depths of meaning from scenes, his ability to nurture nuanced performances from actors, his impeccable timing of comic repartee, his willingness to let dramatic scenes breathe and his courage to let silences speak of characters’ unspoken words and bonds. The quality of Hall’s production here rivals the New York edition and sometimes surpasses it.
A popular leading lady under Hall’s tenure, Nesbit creates a quirky, lovable creature who has paid a long-term price for her excesses but still exudes a genuine love of simply being alive. While Nesbit disappears into the character, her acting technique is a marvel for fellow professionals to dissect.
This is Wahl’s best work since he played in Bent for Hall years ago. Often cast as a light comedian, Wahl is completely convincing as a deeply troubled man... While Adam is an annoyingly neurotic and self-destructive hypochondriac, Wahl injects him with a woebegone charm that keeps us from wanting to slap him upside the head.
Canfield pulls off a minor miracle in keeping Luke’s faith simple, sincere and credible.
Especially impressive is Bateman who, with Nauffts’ help, never makes the homophobic racist father into a two-dimensional monster. Like Luke with his faith, Bateman’s bigotry is just who the man is, surprising absent any conscious malice...
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Staged by Michael Hall, the company’s retired cofounder, Next Fall serves as a reminder of the graceful touch the director so often brought to topical, hot-from-New York plays. The production, staged on Tim Bennett’s beautifully autumnal abstract set, is wittily engaging and heart-wrenching.
The richness of Next Fall comes from the way the playwright deftly mixes laughter and loss, and from the Caldwell cast’s artful performances.

Wahl and Canfield easily underscore Adam and Luke’s fundamental bond. Bateman is both a little scary and fearless, particularly in the moment when Butch’s homophobic attitude becomes a knife to his son’s heart. Adjan and Kent do their things, she as the woman Adam might have loved were he straight, he as a guy who cannot come to the same mental accommodation Luke has. And Nesbit? She is so gloriously funny, so moment-to-moment real, so able to exude the tenderness everyone else seems to be seeking that you wish Arlene were a far larger presence in Next Fall.
Next Fall plays at The Caldwell Theatre through March 27.

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