Review by Matthew Hocter
The incredibly complicated relationship between the LGBTQ community and religion is nothing new. With homophobia being apart of the very teachings by many, if not most religions, it should come as no surprise that within those religions are many people who identify as LGBTQ. Systemic in its approach, homophobia has forced many LGBTQ people to question not just their faith, but where they belong. And at times, is faith is even an option when exclusion seems to be the only way forward.
Growing up in a religious home can be incredibly complicated, especially when your family life is deeply connected with said religion. More often than not, it’s not just a “once a week trip to church” but more so cultural, encompassing so many aspects of family life and something that is celebrated together. It then becomes increasingly complicated when you realise that you fall outside of what is regarded as “normal” in the eyes of your religion. Needless to say, walking into the Holden Street Theatres to see a play about all these things could be triggering for some. Luckily, Next Fall is far from triggering.
Taking my seat and glancing around the audience, it was safe to say that the majority of the people there were predominantly gay men, maybe even a part of the wider LGBTQ community. Although I shouldn’t be intrigued or even surprised by this, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those in the community, especially the elders, have been left feeling somewhat excluded or having had something taken from them for nothing more than who they choose to love, especially their faith.
Again, complicated and not uncommon.
Spoiler alert: the crux of this story is one of loss and the associated pain. But it is also so much more than that. The dynamics of how each one of those people that are connected with the person who's passed away (in this case, the character of Luke) is explored. Understanding each individual relationship to the deceased is paramount to this play and for the most part, each of said relationship gets their turn and give a standout performance.
From the minute Lukes Mother took to the stage, Arlene (played by the indomitable Lisa Lanzi) it was clear that her fellow cast mates had some big shoes to fill where characters are concerned. A woman from the Southern part of America with a matching accent done to perfection, and the joy I felt every time she stepped on set was something I can’t really describe. Every gay sons Mother rolled into one delicious and loving woman.
Producer Darrin Redgate brings Geoffrey Nauffts play to life by casting actors like Lanzi and the plays love story comprising of Tom Murdock (Luke) and a ferocious performance by Matt Hyde (Adam). Whilst Lukes story is very American-centric (a deeply religious family from the Southern part of North America), his story could easily be played by any gay son searching for the connection between faith and sexuality, no matter the country or colour of ones skin. The struggle with one’s own self and identity is hard enough, factor in a partner like Adam who clearly does not share the same concept of faith, and the struggle between the jaded and cynical New Yorker (Adam) and his partner Luke makes for compelling theatre.
Next Fall challenges the concept of faith, not just literally but metaphorically. Whether those relationships are familial, sexual or simply just friends, every type of relationship has an element of faith to it. It really is a play that examines just what love and faith actually mean.
Whilst the crux of this is most definitely an LGBT play at heart, this is also a story about relationships, and the grieving process. How do we grieve? Is anyone's grief more important than the other person’s? In short, no. It also highlights that in grief, comes unity, understanding and connectivity. Next Fall was done beautifully with a strong cast and a story that is so vitally important in 2021 and one that everyone must see.
Image Credit: Show Team