Reviewed by Sara Eisenbaum
“Next Fall” at itʼs core is religiously cliche and offers a great deal of contradictions that for the most part are not welcome. Maybe because Godʼs love is the rather large mainstay of the performance I am feeling the need to purge a bit of kindness in order to atone for later sins that may come free flowing from the ʻhorseʼs mouth.ʼ Three is the magic number when viewing this play, meaning three things actually keep the viewer in the seat through intermission. 1. Mark Jacob Chaitin, who plays the character of Luke, is wondrously handsome, and itʼs hard to turn away from his heart felt portrayal of a gay man trying to figure out how to meld his beliefs. At the same time Ryan Hamlin, the character of Adam, (Lukeʼs partner) has a great sense of comedic timing that added a much needed dose of reality and giggling appeal. 2. The exit sign was for me the most dramatic part of the play. It felt like a throw back to the flashing green light in The Great Gatsby and thankfully hints at some depth. The sign at times is the only light on the stage and signals the change between time periods and scenes like a serving of mint as a palette cleanser. Very important. And Finally 3. The flashbacks spattered throughout the play are playful and light and done through recordings being projected on white sheets. They are set to music that allows the audience to drift back to memories of their own which provides at least some reprieve from the pushing of God speak.
And that, regretfully, is the end of the atonement. The play was touted as a heartwarming look at a gay relationship that faces challenges due to differences in belief. That makes sense as most relationships struggle over conflicting beliefs. However, the background of the of the play made through the occasional calling of ʻbabeʼ and smooches here and there. The rest of the play begs the question of who is and who isnʼt going to heaven. The title of the performance is perhaps a double entendre or pun in some way alluding to the much hoped for rapture. One character, whose role was totally awkward and unclear until the very end, even manages to carry a
bible the entire play. He does it so well that for the most part he is white knuckled. Itʼs unclear if this is an attempt to show what a firm grasp he has on religion, or possibly thatʼs adding distinct meaning where folly was the culprit. The most glaring offense of the play was the desire of the playwright or the director to add in a segment bashing fat people. Iʼm unsure why that detail needed to be present. Fat people are always popping up lately as comedic relief, but it seems thatʼs the easy way out and itʼs totally unnecessary and frankly very upsetting. A great part of the play was spent mocking fat people and using the discussion of overeaters as a segue into a Second City-esque sideshow. It felt as though by commenting on the need for fat people to starve themselves they could take the spotlight off of a more important issue that got totally washed over; the need for a firm direction in life, and the feeling of hopelessness and resentment that bubbles beneath the surface when one path isnʼt clearly marked.
Although there are merits to the play the downfalls are much like the sinkholes that showed up in Chicago after the big storm, just too big to drive around.
Running Time: Two hours with a ten minute intermission
At The BOHO Theatre @ Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood Ave, Chicago
Written by Geoffrey Nauffts
Directed by Derek Bertelsen
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 2pm
Thru May 25th
For more information, visit http://www.astonrep.com/home/next_fall
Photo by Rob Cramer