Sean Dugan and Patrick Breen are members of the sterling cast performing Geoffrey Nauffts’ dark comedy, “Next Fall,” at the small Peter Jay Sharp Theater, above Playwrights Horizons’ more capacious auditorium.
The play, instead of closing at the end of its run at the Sharp, will be moving to a larger space, where it may enjoy the long life it so richly deserves. Whether the new venue will be a Broadway house or a larger Off-Broadway location has yet to be determined.
Nauffts, artistic director of the production organization, Naked Angels, since the fall of 2007, has been best known as an actor and director, although he also has a few screenwriting credits.
“Next Fall” has its subversive aspects, first presenting itself as a theatrical sitcom. The cluster of glib characters, who are gathered together in a neutral space that is soon revealed to be a hospital waiting room, toss off quips and jokes at a rapid pace.
The core of Nauffts’ meticulously crafted play, however, is relentlessly serious, to the point of possessing a near-tragic aspect. Breen’s character, Adam, is a committed atheist involved in an enduring relationship with a much younger man, Luke, raised in a family of Southern fundamentalist Christians.
The difficult role Dugan plays so brilliantly is Brandon, present in the waiting room, but seemingly not attached to anyone else in Nauffts’ equation. The character remains unexplained until late in the play.
Luke, potently rendered by Patrick Heusinger, has been in a serious traffic accident, and the anxious group waiting for news includes, in addition to Adam and Brandon, Luke’s divorced parents, Arlene and Butch, and Holly, a candleshop operator for whom one of the lovers has worked.
Luke’s devout and judgemental parents know little about their son’s life in New York, and nothing at all about his relationship with Adam, with whom he has lived for four years.
“Next Fall” moves back and forth in time, beginning with the moment Luke, then a waiter, meets Adam, and ending in the hospital waiting room.
On one level, Nauffts’ play deals with the effect that faith and the absence of faith can have on an otherwise healthy partnership.
Another aspect of the play, studies the interactions of two very different individuals working out the kinks in an unconventional but committed partnership.
With Cotter Smith, Connie Ray and Maddie Corman as, respectively, Butch, Arlene and Holly, completing director Sheryl Kaller’s flawless ensemble cast, “Next Fall” stands as one of the most satisfying productions on a New York stage in recent seasons.