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Young Luke is Christian and gay. His partner, 40-year-old Adam, says that's a contradiction. As their relationship grows, it works on every level except core beliefs.

Their names reflect the split: Luke, from the New Testament; Adam, the Old. Luke fears Adam won't be saved come the Rapture. Adam, who doesn't believe in hell or heaven, wishes Luke would climb down from his apocalyptic hobbyhorse.

When a horrific accident puts Luke in a hospital with a coma, Adam, Luke's family, and others must reexamine themselves.

For a play with such a potentially volatile theme, Next Fall doesn't proselytize much beyond salvation vs. damnation. And the clashes between Luke and Adam rarely go beyond the simplistic and formulaic.

Next Fall is funny and moving, in the end, but takes its sweet time. The playwright, Geoffrey Nauffts, was an actor long before he wrote it. Rather than craft scenes for an audience to follow, he wrote lengthy ones for actors to perform.

The trees often upstage the forest. Each actor has developed set pieces - some even the equivalent of an 11th hour number - while the play's internal clock demands momentum for the big finish.

Diversionary Theatre made a smart decision: it chose James Vasquez to direct. He treats the script as if a more experienced playwright wrote it. The production sags here and there, but Vasquez and the design team (Matt Scott, set, Michelle Caron, lighting, Shirley Pierson, costumes) facilitate things whenever possible.

Vasquez also made smart casting choices: Jacque Wilke's sharp and funny as Holly, Adam's best friend; Tony Houck's a model of purse-lipped restraint as Brandon, a mystery man; and Shana Wride works comical wonders as Arlene, Adam's loose cannon of a mother. But John Whitley can't go far as Butch (another dead-giveaway name), the one-note homophobe.

Stewart Calhoun (a cherubic Luke) and Matt McGrath (Adam, a neurotic hypochondriac) make up in chemistry what the script lacks in depth.


Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Boulevard, University Heights. Playing through March 25.

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