St. Louis Repertory Theatre | Next Fall

The recent Broadway hit examines—though comedy, pain and grace—love, faith, friendship and family, and how the four intersect.

 
In a word: Bravo.
The Rep’s latest Studio Theatre Series production, Next Fall, is nearly pitch-perfect in every way, from the script to the cast to the set. Written by Geoffrey Nauffts and well directed by Seth Gordon, Next Fall centers on a gay couple, Adam (Jeffrey Kuhn) and Luke (Colin Hanlon), and the friends and family members which surround them. The recent Broadway hit examines—though comedy, pain and grace—love, faith, friendship and family, and how the four intersect. Everybody’s got their demons, and everybody’s got to figure out how to accept others’ issues if they want those people in their lives.
The play—well over two hours in length, and never once does it feel long—opens in what we soon realize is a hospital waiting room. Susan Greenhill quickly steals the show as Arlene, Brandon’s very Southern mother. Except for a couple dialogue stumbles, Greenhill imbued her role perfectly as the woman who talks too much and loves, perhaps, too sporadically.
From the present day, the play alternates current scenes with past, initially going back five years to the night Luke and Adam met. Of course, we know the two will end up together, but the very awkward way their paths initially intersect shows us how very different these two are, not just in age but in beliefs—disparate yet, somehow, it works. We see the couple’s relationship as it grows over time, contrasting Luke’s fundamental Christian beliefs with Adam’s agnosticism. Perhaps the religious back-and-forth did go on a tad long, but Brandon’s continued guilt over his lifestyle is worth mentioning a second time.
Surrounding the couple are their mutual friend/employer, Holly (Marnye Young) and Brandon’s former friend, the conservative and drab Brandon (Ben Nordstrom); truth be told, Brandon’s role in the play seemed, well, fairly unnecessary…but who am I to be picky? Keith Jochim is solid as Butch, Luke’s father, loud and outspoken, very religious as his ex-wife yet more outspoken in his beliefs (chief among them, of course, is the sin of homosexuality). You can see the way this familial stage is set.
Hanlon and Kuhn are fabulous as the central characters, each fully coming alive as his character, each showing us all of the emotions involved in molding two lives together. Their love is easily believable, their conversations—as those of all committed couples—playful, loving deep, searingly honest and, sometimes, painful. You’ll feel as if you know these two as people, so believably do they fill their roles.
Over two long acts, the play tugs at us, offering laughs then shocks of pain. It’s a story of love, of guilt, of belief and of honesty. You’ll be the richer for spending your evening with this cast of characters. | Laura Hamlett
Next Fall runs at the Grandel Theatre in Grand Center (3610 Grandel Square) through November 14. Curtain times are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.; and selected Sunday evenings at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online or at the Rep Box Office at the Loretto-Hilton Center. For more information, visit www.repstl.org.
 
Photo credits:
Top (L to R): Marnye Young as Holly, Keith Jochim as Butch, Susan Greenhill as Arlene and Jeffrey Kuhn as Adam. © Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.
Bottom (L to R): Colin Hanlon as Luke and Jeffrey Kuhn as Adam. © Photo by Keith Jochim.
Both photos courtesy St. Louis Repertory Theatre.
About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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