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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Next Fall

Also see Susan's review of Josephine Tonight

Next Fall
Tom Story and Chris Dinolfo
Next Fall is a beautifully written, delicate play about big things—love, family, and life itself—and director Mark Ramont Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, brings it to life with six actors who provide both depth and heart.

Playwright Geoffrey Nauffts takes material that could be simplistic or preachy, and instead makes it true and moving. The center of the drama is the comfortable love between Adam (Tom Story), a 40-year-old struggling author and a hypochondriac, and Luke (Chris Dinolfo), a younger aspiring actor, and the dynamics that arise after one of them is seriously injured in an accident.

While Adam and Luke agree about most things, they have very different personal belief systems: Adam is a cynic and an atheist, while Luke finds security in his Christian faith. "Is it so wrong that I want you to go to heaven?" Luke asks as Adam pokes fun at what he sees as the excesses of religion.

The other members of this small group are Luke's blustering father Butch (Kevin Cutts) and dithering mother Arlene (Kathryn Kelley), Holly (Dawn Ursula), a gift-shop owner who employs Luke and earlier employed Adam, and Brandon (Alexander Strain), Luke's friend and fellow believer. None of them is a stereotype: Butch and Arlene are not the small-town Southern churchgoers they appear to be, while Holly is a believer in many traditions beyond her Catholic upbringing.

The quiet genius of this ensemble comes through in the naturalness of their interactions. Story and Dinolfo ably depict the back-and-forth of any couple trying to navigate each day as it comes; Cutts and Kelley play a couple who, although long divorced, have been fighting the same battles for decades; and Ursula blends deep-down strength with bits of trendy spirituality. Strain, a notably intense actor, has less to do as Brandon, but he brings a hypnotic concentration to his time onstage.

Daniel Conway's evanescent scenic design and Daniel MacLean Wagner's lighting place the hospital waiting room behind semi-sheer curtains while scenes from throughout the men's relationship appear in the foreground and to the sides. It's a fortuitous way of depicting the interplay between past and present, and the role of memory in a time of stress.

Round House Theatre
Next Fall
February 1st - 26th

By Geoffrey Nauffts
Adam: Tom Story
Luke: Chris Dinolfo
Holly: Dawn Ursula
Brandon: Alexander Strain
Arlene: Kathryn Kelley
Butch: Kevin Cutts
Directed by Mark Ramont
4545 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-644-1100 or www.roundhousetheatre.org


Photo: Danisha Crosby


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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