Photo by Michael Brunk for ArtsWest
West Seattle's ArtsWest Playhouse offers "Next Fall" which grapples with complications in same-sex relationships, religion, denial, & hospital rights. Pictured, L-R: Christopher Zinovitch, ArtsWest artistic director and Alki resident who stars as Adam, an atheist, & his partner Luke, a Christian, played by David Elwyn Traylor, a Cornish College graduate.

ArtsWest's "Next Fall" probes life, death, & gay interfaith relationships

Audience at premiere laughed, cried, then gave standing ovation; Runs through April 6

In contrast to "Seinfield", coined by some as "a show about nothing," ArtsWest Playhouse's current production, "Next Fall" is a show about everything. The play grapples with complications in same-sex relationships, religion, addiction, denial, hospital rights to gay partners, and, well, life and death.

Set in present day Manhattan, (plus flashbacks) the 2010 Tony Award nominee “Next Fall” begins with a traffic accident that leaves Luke (David Elwyn Traylor) in a coma. Family and friends gather nervously outside his hospital room, forced to relate to each another. Luke is gay. His male partner, Adam, is devastated by Luke's accident. Luke never came out to his father, Butch, (John Wray) who keeps asking Adam, "Who the hell are you?" Butch probably knows, but doesn't want to know.

The dialogue offers breathers to counter the ordeal with occasional wit and wordplay. Flashbacks show Luke and Adam developing their intense, generally nurturing, relationship. Problem is, Luke is an Evangelical Christian (with guilt issues that strike following intimacy in bed) ) while Adam is a skeptic with little use for the Bible, its pages suitable, he says, for toilet paper.

A New York Times piece written Aug. 7, 2009, referring to its playwright Geoffrey Nauffts, states, "...Mr. Nauffts has delivered what may well be the first artistic exploration of interfaith marriage within a same-sex context. While heterosexuals of various faiths or none at all have long struggled to reconcile religious identity (...) the advent of same-sex marriage is now bringing this kind of tension (...) It is no coincidence, Mr. Nauffts acknowledged in an interview, that he chose the names for his loving antagonists from the Old Testament’s Genesis and one of the New Testament’s Gospels."

Audience and cast members shared their impressions of "Next Fall" with the West Seattle Herald in the lobby right after the premiere.

Christopher Zinovitch

Said Christopher Zinovitch, ArtsWest artistic director and Alki resident who stars as Adam, "I think, sadly, it is important material. I wish I could say it's a museum piece and nothing is relevant anymore, but even with Referendum-74 happening I think it is really relevant. There are still kids who are not comfortable telling their family they are gay. There are still parents who refuse to accept it even if their kids do tell. There are still people who don't know what religion is to them or what belief and what faith is and without any sorts of belief or faith you have no grounding for yourself.

"Butch is trying to do the best he can in the moment," he said of the generally unlikable character. "Here is a son he thought he knew, but it's a new person, a new person he doesn't get to meet because his son is in a coma. Does he say goodbye to his little boy, or say hello to this new man? He's really stuck."

Patricia Haines-Ainsworth

Patricia Haines-Ainsworth plays Luke's mother and Butch's ex-wife. "My character is one of those people everybody has met," she said of the slightly neurotic Arlene, who we learn spent six months in the slammer for selling pot, but nevertheless seems to "get it" about her son's sexuality, and Adam's distress.

"Where I live in Monroe there are people who have been in jail and people who have been drug addicts and it's so interesting because they just come up to you and talk and I think that's where I get Arlene from," said Haines-Ainsworth, who revealed she never smoked marijuana. "I've met a number of women like that in the grocery store, or at the soccer field with my kids."

Dawn Leverett

"I get really excited about the edgy productions here," said Dawn Leverett, an ArtsWest board member and real estate agent with Windermere West Seattle. "We don't do 'safe' things here. We do things that are out of the box." She attended with her partner, Lisa Laughlin.

"This is a timely message with Referendum-74 and everything going on," Leverett said. "We live in such a wonderful place in Seattle that we're comfortable to be out and it's such an accepting society. We forget that a lot of the country is not so much."

Lisa Laughlin

Said Laughlin of the play, "It was amazing to me, very, very moving. I was crying at the end. It touched a lot of places as far as things I have gone through in my life in regards to religion and gay relationships."

Judy Pigott

"I thought the play was stunning," said ArtsWest board member Judy Pigott of West Seattle, who operates Personalsafetynets.org, which offers outreach to the community through books, interactive presentations, e-newsletters, keynote addresses, and private consultations. "It evoked all the emotions that I had hoped it would evoke. I love the way it balanced out provocative thought with light moments, then with more provocative thought. Christopher was extraordinary."

Elise Lindborg

"It was really quite emotional," said Elise Lindborg, who, with personal partner, and business partner, Kelli Henderson, run the West Seattle-based promotional products company, ZippyDogs.com. "I totally could relate because when I was sick in the hospital Kelli wasn't considered a member of my family and wasn't allowed in to see me and it pissed me off. I grew up as a Jesus freak. I totally see the perspective from Luke, although I was not so conflicted. Now I am a recovering Lutheran. Seattle is awesome for having open and affirming congregations."

Also starring in "Next Fall" which runs through April 6 are Kate Witt as Holly, and Daniel Stoltenberg as Brandon. Director is Cindy Bradder. Katie Koch is Interim Managing Director. Visit: www.artswest.org

We encourage our readers to comment. No registration is required. We ask that you keep your comments free of profanity and keep them civil. They are moderated and objectionable comments will be removed.