Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Laughter and Tears at Caldwell





“Funniest Heartbreaker” at Caldwell Theatre

By Skip Sheffield

It sounds like an oxymoron, but the catch phrase “funniest heartbreaker in town” is a fairly accurate description of “Next Fall,” continuing its Southeastern U.S. premiere through March 27 at Caldwell Theatre Company, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton.
Playwright Geoffrey Nauffts has structured the play in two time frames: the present and the not-so-distant past. The comedy occurs mostly in Act One, followed by a distinctly serious Act Two.
Adam (Tom Wahl) and Luke (Josh Canfield) are a couple. Luke is an unspecified number of years older than Luke and works an unsatisfying job selling scented candles. At one point Adam frets about turning 40 and losing his hair, so one guesses he is at least that age and aspiring actor Luke at least 15 years younger.
The play begins in the present, at Beth Israel Hospital. Luke has been in a traffic accident. Adam is worried sick.
The situation is so serious Adam’s parents have been called in. Also present are Holly (Irene Adjan), the candle shop owner and Brandon (Christopher Kent), a former boyfriend of Adam’s who was first at the scene of the accident.
The mother, Arlene (Pat Nesbit) is a wise-cracking Southern belle. Father Butch (Dennis Bateman) is a stern, politically conservative and fundamental religious businessman from Tallahassee, Florida.
Pat Nesbit is a longtime Caldwell favorite who has worked many times with guest director Michael Hall. Hall is not just any guest director, but Caldwell Theatre’s co-founder and former executive director.
It is Pat Nesbit’s rapier delivery and impeccable comic timing that gives “Next Fall” its best laughs. As the play progresses the viewer realizes the situation is far more serious than it first seemed, but Arlene’s humor disarms.
The other part of the comedy is the odd couple relationship between Adam and Luke. Not only is he older; Adam has a far darker outlook on life than Luke.
Part of his sunny disposition can be credited on Luke’s Christian faith.
So there is a lot of philosophical banter between Luke, who truly believes Christ died for his sins, and Adam, who is an atheist. Like the recent Palm Beach Dramaworks production “Freud’s Last Session” there is a debate on the existence or non-existence of God, but in this case that question is secondary to the matters at hand; not the least of which is Luke’s failure to be honest with his parents concerning the true nature of his relationship with Adam.
So you will laugh and you may even cry as you come to know the characters of “Next Fall,” but you won’t be bored. Don’t be put off by the thought this is a “gay play.” It is about all of us, regardless of sexual orientation, and that’s why it is so appealing and entertaining while provoking thought on some of the biggest issues of life.
Tickets are $38-$50 and may be reserved by calling 561-241-7432 or going to www.caldwelltheatre.com.

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