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Upcounty Theatre’s Production of Next Fall Provokes Questions About Faith, Homosexuality, and Love

At first brush, a love story that takes place in a hospital waiting room, after one of the lovers suffers a horrible accident may not sound like comedy, but playwright Geoffrey Naufft’s Next Fall has some very funny moments. It also poses some difficult and thought-provoking questions.

Upcounty Theatre, a Germantown- based community theater company, will present Next Fall for the next two weekends, August 14 and 15, and August 21 and 22 at the BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown.

The 2010 Tony-Award nominated play revolves the relationship of gay atheist Adam — played by Jason DeMarchi — and Luke — a struggling actor and a devout Christian — played by David Weiner. After Luke is involved in a critical accident, family and friends descend upon the couple, and longtime differences collide, forcing opposing views on faith into a stand-off. Through flashbacks we meet Adam and Luke, and the struggles and tensions which the relationship has endured.

While DeMarchi and Weiner will play the leads on both weekends, the show will have two supporting casts to get more company members involved in the production.

Opening weekend will feature Joni Donlon and Bill Craley playing Luke's parents, Arlene, and Butch. While, Kelly Peters portrays Holly, the woman who introduced the couple the first weekend.

For the second weekend’s performances Denise Smith and Jeff Smith will be featured as parents Arlene and Butch, and Seneca Valley High School drama teacher Joann Chilcoat Fellows will take over the role of Holly. Seneca Valley student Geraden Ward will play Luke’s childhood friend in all performances.

Seneca Valley High School’s drama program also plays a huge off-stage part in the performance, according to Chilcoat Fellows. “We have almost the entire tech crew from Seneca Valley working on this show. It is pretty cool that these kids have been so excited to work on this production.”

The play is directed by Matti Jane Dickenson who has worked with Upcounty Theatre before and has been passionate about presenting this play to the community for a number of years, according to Upcounty Theatre company president Joni Donlon.

“I saw this show on Broadway five years ago and fell in love with it,” said Dickenson. “I think it is a great way to bring such controversial topics to light, because everyone, no matter their beliefs or background, will relate to something or someone in the play. The way it was written, there is no right or wrong, we're just all trying to get along. I brought it to UpCounty because, as an eclectic group ourselves, it brought us together and we hope it will do the same for the community.”

Dickenson said the one of the bigger challenges of the show has been getting the characters right. “Creating these really well rounded characters without letting them become stereotypes. Each of these characters has flaws, but we spent a lot of time making them honest and endearing in their own way,” she said.

“Matti has gone through each word of this play and really worked with each of us to make sure we know what is being said in each line and what the character isn’t saying with each word,” said DeMachi. “We’ve done a lot of work creating and honing a back story for each character and Matti was instrumental in helping us do that.”

“My cast has been so amazing through this journey,” said Dickerson, “always ready to work, asking questions, and bringing in new ideas. This production has had some unique challenges with it being double cast, but everyone involved with this show has stepped up and made a great team.”