FREE SPEECH ZONE | “Next Fall” at the Jungle Theater

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“Next Fall,” featuring Neal Skoy and Garry Geiken as the two central characters — Luke, an actor; and Adam, a substitute teacher — is impossible to set into a genre. The play, making its Minneapolis-area debut, runs at The Jungle Theater through mid-May.

The play is set in the present, but through a series of vignettes allows its audience to gaze into the relationship between Luke and Adam over the past five years. In these flashbacks, the audience feels the tension as both men attempt to navigate in their relationship. Christian Luke struggles with Adam’s atheism, while Adam struggles with Luke’s refusal to tell his parents he’s gay, thereby keeping his relationship with Adam a secret.

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Director Joel Sass said in an interview with The Star Tribune about the play, “It Acknowledges that to be human is to be complicated.”

In the present, we find that Luke’s two worlds — his gay life with Adam, and his closeted life with his parents — intertwine when he finds himself in a coma after being hit by a car. “Next Fall,” however, shouldn’t be explicitly labeled a drama, as the serious moments are cushioned by humor.

In the first scene, we meet Luke’s birth mother, who refers to herself as the “lung lady.” With a Southern accent, actress Maggie Bearmon Pistner plays the character of Arlene, a loud-eccentric divorcee opposite Stephen Yoakam, who plays strong-willed and hot-headed patriarch, Butch.

It’s unclear whether the parents have any suspicion about their son’s sexuality. In one humorous flashback, Butch pays his son a surprise visit and unknowingly runs into boyfriend Adam.

Having given his son notice of his plane landing, Luke is quick to “de-gay” the apartment. Luke scurries to throw magazines with celebrities pronouncing “I’m Gay!” on the cover, photos, books, a stuffed Teletubbie, and other items into a closet with a rainbow banner and a pink boa.

When Butch finally arrives, the audience is closely following Luke’s struggle to put himself back in the same closet with all the other gay things, when suddenly Luke accidently refers to Adam as “babe.” The audience lets out a simultaneous gasp.

The show gets its name from Luke, who tells Adam that he’ll come out to his parents “Next Fall.” One of the show’s themes is the notion that people shouldn’t wait and leave things off.

As one of the first lines from the show says, “One Minute you are doing the crossword puzzle, and the next minute you are here.”

The show also asks its audience to question what they believe and make up their own mind on whether they should believe in God or not. The problem is that in the end, it seems as if the play and its characters make up our minds for us.

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