Next Fall, which opens at the Ice House Theatre in Visalia May 13, is at heart a play about real people with differing points of view trying to make their relationships work in spite of or perhaps because of their beliefs.
Luke and Adam, rather unlikely lovers since Luke is a devout Christian and Adam is an atheist, have been in a five-year relationship which may be reaching its watershed.
Suddenly, Luke is in an accident which throws Adam into contact with Luke’s parents.
Luke’s father, Butch, is a fundamentalist and in total denial of his son’s homosexuality. Luke has never come out to his family, but his father knows or at the very least suspects Luke’s sexual orientation. Arlene, his mother, was rather a wild woman in her youth, who loves her son and still cares for her ex-husband.
Throw in a couple of well-meaning friends, one for Adam and one for Luke, and you have the perfect scenario for conflict, but perhaps not resolution.
J.P. Rapozo, who portrays Luke, notes, “His father has threatened to keep his brother away from him if he is gay.” Perhaps because he doesn’t want to lose his brother, or because it makes a plausible excuse for postponing coming out to his family, Luke has promised Adam (Christopher Volkerts) that he will tell his brother next fall when he enters college.
However, falls come and go with no disclosure. Volkerts points out, “After five years, Adam is having more and more difficulty dealing with their hidden relationship, but when Luke is in an accident, only turmoil ensues.”
“Butch is unwilling to step outside the rigid place his religion has brought him,” explains Jack Finley. Finley respects Butch for his what-you-see-is-what-you-get attitude, but realizes that Butch is dishonest with himself. “He is nearly self-righteous.”
Melinda Hatfield, as Arlene, sees the play as “intelligent with characters who are very human, loving, and flawed. There are no caricatures.” Hatfield depicts Arlene as insecure, viewing herself as a failed wife and mother.
Holly (Nicole McAvoy) has been Adam’s friend for many years and is sometimes a buffer between him and Luke. McAvoy notes, “This play is very realistic. The events have happened thousands of times across America and will happen again and again.”
David Payne portrays Brandon, Luke’s buddy since childhood, who cannot accept Luke’s relationship with Adam. Director Peg Collins says that Next Fall is a memory play that depicts what it means to believe and not believe. Collins quotes the Dalai Lama, “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness … the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.”
Next Fall runs for three weekends at the Ice House Theatre at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. on 5/13, 5/14, 5/20, 5/21, 5/27, and 5/28 and matinees are at 2:00 p.m. on 5/15, 5/22, and 5/29.
NOTE: The show contains adult content and language. To purchase tickets go to the Visalia Players’ website at www.visaliaplayers.org, their Facebook page “Visalia Community Players”, or call 734-3900.