“Next Fall” at Arts West

It’s not easy to be gay if you’re a Christian Fundamentalist. Here, poor Luke (David Elwyn Traylor) knows that his southern family would be horrified if they knew of his sexual preference, and even more distraught if they found out his lover, Adam (Christopher Zinovitch), was a nonbeliever. Life can be hell, but he makes it work because he also knows that as long as he believes in Jesus his carnal sins will be forgiven. Maybe that’s why he prays after sex.

That praying stuff is rough on Adam, but he really loves his much younger bedmate and revels in their relationship. Then tragedy strikes. Luke is hit by a cab and lies in a coma close to death. Of course his divorced parents arrive and take over.

One of the play’s values is its insight into the effect repressive laws have on gays and lesbians. Adam isn’t allowed in Luke’s hospital room. Family members only are permitted. His four-year relationship with Luke is unrecognized. His emotional pain receives no sympathy, isn’t even recognized.

Nuance isn’t this play’s strong point. It’s filled with shopworn elements. There’s the stereotypic fag hag, Holly, played with empathy by Kate Witt. Patricia Haines-Ainsworth as Luke’s mother is marvelously funny as the southern bimbo, but she’s straight out of a TV sit com. We know little about Luke’s father, tritely named Butch, except that he’s harsh. And Brandon, Luke’s friend, is a curious presence who sits beatifically on the couch through most of the play.

The play’s nomination for a Tony when it appeared in NY in 2010 was probably related to its political timeliness not its quality. Perhaps we’re more sophisticated about the issues today and want more insightful attention to them, something with tighter focus and greater depth.

Through April 6 at Arts West, 4711 California Ave. SW, Seattle (206 938-0339 or www.ArtsWest.org)

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