It starts out simple: a couch, a table, a couple of magazines, a man and a woman.
“Next Fall,” originally written by Geoffrey Nauffts, will be Forbidden Planet Production’s debut fall play.
The main characters, Luke and Adam, are a couple separated by differing religious views: one is Christian and the other is an Atheist. But when tragedy strikes and Adam has to rely on Luke’s family and friends, they find a way to reconcile their conflicting beliefs.
The six-member cast of “Next Fall” began rehearsals Sept. 7, meeting three to four times a week for three hours each night. To prepare for a character-driven play like “Next Fall,” the actors said they had to look beyond the script to develop their backstories.
Matt Traina, a junior who plays Adam, said the cast did character work by writing letters in their characters’ voices and through warm-ups like sitting in a circle and imagining scenarios from their characters’ perspectives.
“Getting in their head is always difficult,” said freshman Tim Traversy, who plays Luke. “You have to understand and see why someone might say that or have that opinion.”
“Next Fall” prides itself on its “Will & Grace-esque” brand of humor. The mix of sitcom-like humor and seriousness tosses the audience back and forth between laughter and solemnity, like when Southern loud-mouth Arlene makes a quip about pumpkin spice candles. But the emotional whiplash and scene changes from present to past are even more difficult for the actors.
“Adam has feelings of sadness at the hospital, and immediately after I have to transition to the first day Adam meets Luke and everything’s happy,” Traina said.
Theater technicians have added their own special feature to indicate shifts in tone: a revolving wall. The wall separates the hospital room and apartment on stage, which allows the cast to remain on stage and switch sets to create a sense of impending tragedy.
Though “Next Fall” deals with sensitive social commentary, the core of the play lies in its realistic portrayal of a difficult relationship.
“You love this person but they have this one thing that makes you wonder how to deal with that,” said sophomore Polly Gregory, the associate producer. “It’s a really smart and sad play. Life isn’t this wonderful rom-com.”
Forbidden Planet Productions is well known for its musicals, but the group’s first production of the year is traditionally a straight play with a hard-hitting message. Larger productions like “Legally Blonde” and “The 20th Annual Rocky Horror Picture Show” will hit the stage later this year.
The play runs from Oct. 9 to Oct. 11 at the West Hall Theater, the same week as National Coming Out Day. Alex Copeland, the show’s director and a student coordinator for the LGBT resource center, said the correlating messages are anything but coincidental.
“We should be able to show that support for the LGBT community and have the LGBT community come out in flying colors,” Copeland said.
Copeland said she hopes audience members can appreciate a realistic love between two men who just happen to be a Christian and an Atheist.
“It’s sharp, it’s important, it’s funny, it’s personal. It’s a great story of a relationship that isn’t perfect, but is definitely not impossible,” she said.