Tragedy: Where love and faith collide

by Lenise Willis

The drama in Next Fall plays out in a hospital waiting room. (courtesy photo)

Just before a tragic accident or life-threatening situation, your entire his- there’s a gay Christian character and that story isn’t often told. But the tory flashes before your eyes, culminating in those few short seconds. playwright doesn’t choose for it to have a political agenda. He doesn’t It’s a life-altering experience that brings new perspective. But what goes choose sides. through the minds of friends and family when they hear of the incident?

Do their emotional experiences, which may last for hours or even days, contain similar flashes that beg for a new outlook?

Paper Lantern Theatre Company takes on these questions and more in their performance of Next Fall. The cleverly written play by Geoffrey Nauffts is a stimulating take on faith, commitment and unconditional love.

“The story is so beautiful,” said Jonathan Brady, director. “It’s deceptively simple as just a witty, funny and yet heartbreaking story, but it’s really actually kind of complex.”

Focusing on the five-year relationship of two characters, the play also goes beyond the typical love story and forces audiences to examine what it means to believe and the consequences of not doing so.

After a tragic car accident, Luke (James French) is sent to the hospital, where his loved ones anxiously gather in the waiting room. Awaiting news of Luke’s condition is his lover Adam (DH Johnson), his divorced parents Butch (Richard Fullerton) and Arlene (Amy da Luz), his employer and friend Holly (Allison Lamb), and his friend Brandon (Adam Kampouris).

Within the diverse group is an array of viewpoints and lifestyles which collide in the waiting room. Adam is an atheist homosexual, whereas Butch is a devout Christian who is unaware of his son Luke’s homosexuality. While the group talks, the waiting room seamlessly transforms as the play uses flashbacks to tell of Luke’s life and relationships, infusing them with both humor and heartbreak.

“Gay rights is a slight part of the story, but it’s more about faith — not just in religion, but in oneself, in one’s family, in one’s partner and in one’s friends — and the compromises you make to keep that faith and to “It brings up all of these philosophical questions and it doesn’t give any answers to them either,” Brady continued. “The audience has to fill it in with their own opinions and beliefs. The play doesn’t choose the left or the right and that’s what I really love about it.”

This is the third play Brady has directed in Triad Stage’s UpStage Cabaret, the last being the recent Santaland Diaries. “It’s kind of funny to direct back-to-back plays in the same place,” Brady said. “I adore [the cabaret] especially for this play because it’s an intimate story.”

Brady said he saw Next Fall on Broadway, but thought the play was better suited for a smaller, more intimate space.

“When I saw the play [on Broadway], the cabaret was the first thing I thought of,” Brady said. “It’s more powerful when you’re immersed in the world of the play. The audience gets a more visceral experience. It seemed that in the Broadway house, in the proscenium setting, you seem removed from the story.”

Paper Lantern Theatre Company is a young theater, comprised of seven local artists. The company’s mission is to create, collaborate, take risks and produce shows that otherwise might not be seen in the Triad.

“Paper Lantern was drawn to [Next Fall] because of the relevant, challenging and pertinent issues that it presents to our audience in a non-biased story,” said co-producer Beth Ritson. “As social and public policies are in continual discussion and debate, this story helps to give a humanistic angle and show all sides of some very complex issues.”

“I hope people come to the play and see a piece of themselves within the characters and know that we’re all in this together, that we’re all human and there is no right or wrong when it comes to our beliefs and faith,” Brady said. “We should just enjoy each other while we can while we’re here.”

be a human being,” Brady said, “and I think those are the things that the play brings up and that people will be talking about.”

wanna go?

Though the play has previously been called a political piece of theatre, Brady said it’s not “heavy handed.”

“In today’s world and political climate it’s almost like you’re either far left or right. It’s almost like you can’t be religious and humanistic at the

Paper Lantern Theatre Company’s production of Next Fall runs Thursday-Jan. 29, Tuesday-Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., in Triad Stage’s UpStage Cabaret, 232 S. Elm St. Tickets are $15-$18. For tickets and more information call 33.272.0160 or visit

same time. But this play shows that that’s not necessarily true. In the play