ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT BY IRV RIKON
PLAY REVIEW: NEXT FALL BY GEOFFREY NAUFFTS AT BOCA'S CALDWELL
Two men of slighty different generations meet and move in together as lovers. The younger man is religious. The older is not. Several other people engage them: a sympathetic female friend; a less sympathetic male lover; parents of the younger man. Their story is told by Geoffrey Nauffts in his Tony-nominated play, Next Fall, which is now being produced by the Caldwell Theatre Company in the Count de Hoernle Theatre in Boca Raton.
The story is basic, but the playwright peppers it by raising several thorny religious questions. Some examples: The younger man prays a lot: could a devout "gay" be admitted into heaven? Is there life after death? And he sweetens his plot with some light banter.
Assessing this play is not easy, mainly for the reason it's hard to get inside the playwright's head and know where he really wants to take us. The work is set in "various locations in New York City from 2004 - 2009". But there are multiple scenes that change quickly, no doubt to give the stagework a motion picture-type flow, yet despite the gallant efforts of the technical staff headed by Tim Bennett and Thomas Salzman, Scenic and Lighting Designer respectively, the locales and dates sometimes fail to register as quickly in one's mind. This is emphasized by the fact the play is promoted as a "comedy-drama", and the scenes careen without warning from funny to deadly serious. So much so that in viewing it the play sometimes reminded my of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. In this case, their different attitudes towards religion lends them the oddness, and as in the Neil Simon offering, one of these men is a hypochondriac, a ready source of humor. But whereas Mr. Simon in his early career wrote slice-of-life comedies, the situation Mr. Nauffts presents is not comic except that he stretches to make it so, and the one-liners to me seem out of place. A bit more affection, fewer laughs and less jerky motions in the playscript woud help this play a lot.
Michael Hall, the Caldwell Theatre's co-founder and Artistic Director until he semi-retired late season, returns to direct this production, and he does so with aplomb. The cast, headed by Tom Wahl and Josh Canfield, is fine. For the most part, Mr. Wahl dominates when he's onstage.
The production runs through March 27. For tickets and reservations, telephone 561-241-7432 or online: www.caldwelltheatre.com.