Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Next Fall
Florida Studio Theatre

Kevin Cristaldi, Jason O'Connell and Katherine Michelle Tanner
Florida Studio Theatre is presenting the region premiere of Geoffrey Nauffts' Next Fall, which has had considerable success in New York where it opened Off-Broadway in 2009, extended its run multiple times and later resurfaced On Broadway, where one critic referred to it as "The little play that could."

The basic conceit is a mismatched gay couple: one with no religious or spiritual beliefs and the other with an absolute acceptance of Jesus as his personal savior. This conflict is presented completely in black and white; it is difficult to imagine that these people could set aside their differences long enough to become a couple. Along the way, the author also presents multiple staples of gay theater including the "fag hag" best friend, southern religious parents, and a closeted gay man in conflict with an open and proud one. When I first became aware of the premise of this play, I hoped for something as incisive as Tony Kushner's Angels in America, but this play is not in that rarefied strata. Still, it is thought provoking. At the performance I attended, several patrons were involved in interesting conversations as we exited. As a gay man with strong religious ties, I was also drawn into the play. Much of the credit for that has to go to Assistant Artistic Director Kate Alexander, always a steady hand as director, here drawing rich performances from her entire cast.

Jason O'Connell gives a nuanced performance in the central role of Adam, showing us his fears of being 40 and adrift career-wise, his insecurities with life in general, and most importantly his overall genial nature. Kevin Cristaldi gives an excellent performance as Luke, sweet and secure in his knowledge that all of life's bad stuff will be taken care of for him. Phillip Clark and Judith Hawking both give vivid performances as Luke's parents Butch and Arlene. Mr. Clark is full of bluster, trying to ignore what is right in front of Butch—his son's homosexuality. Ms. Hawking, a Canadian actress, is absolutely believable as the mother from Florida. Katherine Michelle Tanner, a favorite local actress, shows us Holly's inner strength. Kenajuan Bentley seems almost wasted in the part of Luke's confidant Brandon until the end in a strong scene between Brandon and Adam, which sheds light on all the conflicting relationships.

The generic setting by Michael Schweikardt doesn't delineate clearly between the various settings, which include a waiting room in a hospital, two different apartments, and others. The audience simply has to use their imagination, and the playwright helps make the setting clear in the dialogue. Lighting and costumes both are effective.

Florida Studio Theatre presents Next Fall through March 25, 2012, 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at (941) 366-9000 or visit

Adam: Jason O'Connell*
Luke: Kevin Cristaldi*
Holly: Katherine Michelle Tanner*
Brandon: Kenajuan Bentley*
Butch: Phillip Clark*
Arlene: Judith Hawking*

*Denotes member of Actor's Equity

Director: Kate Alexander,br>Production Stage Manager: Kelli Karen*
Scenic Designer: Michael Schweikardt
Costume Designer: Sara J. Hinkley
Lighting Designer: Micheal Foster

Photo: Maria Lyle

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--William S. Oser

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