Gay rights and religion are such clashing topics that trying to talk to somebody with opposing views can turn awkward almost as fast as that time you sent your parents a drunk-text that was meant for your boyfriend. Not that that’s happened to anybody here, but you know what I mean.
Geoffrey Nauffts’ Next Fall tells the story of Adam, an atheist, and his lover, Luke, a closeted Christian, throughout their four-year relationship. Nauffts must have handled it right, because the work was nominated for a Tony for Best Play in 2010 and scored a rave review from the New York Times.
Though Nauffts’ prior acting and directing experience allowed him to be hands-on in the play’s Broadway run, SpeakEasy’s upcoming production of Next Fall will be the first time Nauffts gets to see a production of his work created without him.
“I don’t know what to expect in Boston,” he says. “Truly, this is the first time I’ll be seeing a production with fresh eyes and having not been a part of it.”
But he insists he’s not worried: “I’m excited to see it … I expect to be pleasantly surprised.”
The play deals with some pretty hot button issues, but while Nauffts is confident about a Boston audience’s ability to swallow the issues in Next Fall, he admits that the play’s life beyond the East Coast is more of a gray area. “The play has been done in a few Southern cities, and, not to say that the South is not as forward-thinking, but the religious right is more prevalent down there than on the East Coast. So far—knock on wood—in the few places it’s been done, in areas where you’d think it might not go over well, it’s actually been well-received. … It’s going to be happening in Dallas, and I remember years ago seeing a production of Angels in America at the Dallas Theater Center. When I went down there with some of my friends, there were buses parked outside with the religious right just camping out and picketing.”
But that kind of backlash, Nauffts insists, doesn’t appear to be on the horizon, because Next Fall isn’t that kind of play:
“It’s tame, in certain respects, and I’ve tried to give a voice to all the characters that’s non-judgmental, and then leave it up to the audience to figure it out for themselves.”
One of the main motifs of the play is the idea of coming out—both in coming to terms with one’s sexuality and in accepting the sometimes wildly opposing beliefs of others. Though Nauffts says he saw the play as a wider metaphor for how America deals with gay rights, there is an autobiographical context: “[In the past, being gay] was very unspoken. We had Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly as our role models, and they weren’t gay. Even though you knew they were. I hope I’m not outing either one of those guys, bless their souls.”
Still, he admits he can see the landscape changing, both through the reception of Next Fall and in day-to-day life: “No matter how liberal your background is, you still have to go through the fire, if you’re coming out … I think that’s changing.
I used to think, ‘I’m never going to have a family, I’m never going to be in love.’ Certainly, in the past 10 years, that’s changed dramatically. As we progress further and further, we’ll get to where it’s not at all torturous.
THE SPEAKEASY STAGE COMPANY
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BOSTON CENTER FOR THE ARTS
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