This was a rough last couple of weeks for those around me. An unnatural assault of devastating losses and completely unexpected challenges seem to have tumbled into the lives in my periphery, coinciding with the initially regret-tainted, always-too-soon transition of Summer to Fall. In the haze of all the hows and whys of surrounding reality, there was a poetic and cathartic, surprisingly bright respite on Saturday afternoon at the San Jose Rep. A celebration of deep love, life and connections that on one hand don’t make any sense and on the other hand reflect the very essence of a loving bond, Next Fall triumphs as a healing piece of art.
While at first glance the themes of religion and homosexuality might seem politically charged, the content of this play is not so much controversial as it is just intensely personal. It is a civilized, albeit emotional, conversation about deeply private, fundamental beliefs and how they present potential deal breakers for a variety of different relationship types. What is really lovely about this show is that it feels neither preachy nor over the top. The views which could be polarizing and disconnect an audience ultimately don’t overshadow the individual through lines. I didn’t get the sense that there was an underlining message of right or wrong, just the happenstance of existing parallel ideas and trying to cope with those differences. The philosophies are deep, there is a tremendous amount of conviction behind each view but the presentation of these views is genuinely expressed and balanced. This isn’t a messy conflict where people yell and argue without listening, without desperately wanting to understand the other’s perspective or come to a comfortable compromise. On the contrary the underlining joy and love that reigns despite the inability to agree or comprehend the other “side” seems very truthful and refreshingly mature. Love is on the same side, always.
Despite the natural and non-soapbox-like presentation of the principal content, I still feel that this is a play that might not be able to be performed in every community, and I’m always appreciative and moved to be part of an audience that can provide a safe environment for a story to be told, lending itself to reception rather than judgment. This story would I fear, in some places not be deemed realistic, and that also adds a hint of additional sadness.
There is a feeling of truly being a fly on the wall in an uncomfortable way as we watch an impossibly difficult situation unfold and revisit the past as a way to comprehend the present. There is genuine humor throughout, diffusing what is at the core, an extremely trying, specific kind of pain being dealt with. It’s a kind of grief that is supremely difficult to grasp and even more difficult to watch and we are rendered helpless, unable to console, or actively participate in the conversation in the moment. This does make it a challenge in places but dynamic performances, ethereal lighting and clever staging help guide beautiful words and concepts to a place of peace rather than dwelling in depression. The success of this play is divided equally among all the cast, crew and staff which address the production with such compassion and embraced all its hope and joy.
A restorative 4 out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for a tender piece that plants thought seeds amongst the fertile soil of your heart and brain, leaving them to germinate and blossom well after you leave the theater. Next Fall plays through November 10th at the San Jose Rep.