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posted: 5/14/2013 8:08 AM

Village Theatre Guild to stage avant-garde 'Next Fall'

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  • Jared Titus as Luke and Tony Lage as Adam taking a moment to nurture their stage relationship in the Village Theatre Guild's newest production of Geoffrey Nauffts' "Next Fall."

      Jared Titus as Luke and Tony Lage as Adam taking a moment to nurture their stage relationship in the Village Theatre Guild's newest production of Geoffrey Nauffts' "Next Fall."
    Village Theatre Guild

 
By Robert Lundin
Village Theatre Guild

The theater, perhaps more than any art form, is prone to explore topics that are both contemporary, relevant and controversial.

In "Next Fall," the Village Theatre Guild's newest production opening May 24, no less than two provocative themes are the basis of the playwright's storytelling: gay relationships and fundamentalist religion.

New York playwright Geoffrey Nauffts tells the story of two men in a five-year relationship and how they made it happen in spite of one's espousing skepticism and the other's fundamentalist Christianity.

At the beginning of the play comes a life-changing event: a serious auto accident puts one of them, Luke (the Christian), in peril. In a New York hospital waiting room, family, friends and lovers come together.

The play launches into flashbacks that tell the story of Luke's and Adam's love affair. To complicate the story, Luke's divorced parents -- his free-spirit mother Arlene and take-charge father Butch -- fly in from the South. Neither knows of Luke's sexual orientation. Others in the cast try to mitigate the tension.

"Nauffts examines both of these themes -- homosexuality, religion -- however, he never passes any judgments on anyone's beliefs," Director Jim Liesz says. "He simply puts it out there and lets all the characters fend for themselves.

"Luke, though a gay man, struggles to deal with his homosexuality, as it isn't acceptable in his faith beliefs. Adam, who has no religious affiliations, can't understand Luke's devotion to a Christian-based philosophy, so he is constantly questioning him. Luke's response is always the same: it is in one's faith that one's true beliefs are held," Liesz says.

"I would hope that our Glen Ellyn audiences will view our performance with open minds and understand that the playwright isn't trying to brow beat anyone. He's simply putting a very realistic story out there and, as serious as the subject matter becomes, the play is infused with a goodly amount of humor. At times, you just have to laugh out loud, it's that funny," Liesz says.

"Many community theaters are under the auspices of a park district, where there is less freedom to do avant-garde productions with more adult themes," says producer Sue Keenan, one of the founding members of VTG, now in its 50th year.

"We have done some edgy stuff that other community theaters have not because it is controversial. Our audiences like to laugh and be entertained, but they also like to see material that makes them think."

This production of "Next Fall" is timely, as both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Illinois Legislature are considering cases that will shape the outcome of same-sex marriage in America.

Featured in the show are Jared Titus of Oak Park, Tony Lage of West Chicago, Christopher Williams of Aurora, JoAnn Smith of Naperville, Geoffrey Maher of Arlington Heights and Deborah Ruzicka of Palatine.

Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. May 24 to June 15, with Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. There is a Thursday performance at 8 p.m. June 13.

A special 50th anniversary evening Saturday, June 1, will cost $25 and includes refreshments and a talk-back with the cast. Otherwise, all tickets are $18.

The Village Theatre Guild is near the northwest corner of Park Boulevard and Butterfield Road in Glen Ellyn. For reservations, call (630) 469-8230 or email tickets@villagetheatreguild.org.

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