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Rebecca reviews 'Next Fall,' 'Commotion Dance Theater,' and 'No More Words' 

My Sunday at Fringe began with "Next Fall," a Geoffrey Nauffts play directed by Thomas Markham and staged at TheatreROCS. The show is about a group of family and friends struggling to reconcile differences in faith and sexuality. It opens with the extremely jarring sounds of a car crash in the pitch black, after which the scene resolves into a hospital waiting room. Through conversation between his parents and close friends, we learn that Luke (Michael Flanagan) is left in a coma after being hit by a taxi.

As his situation grows more grave, his long-term boyfriend, Adam (Carl Del Buono), must navigate the fact that Luke's parents don't know -- and likely won't accept -- the nature of their relationship.

The play whips back and forth in time, unveiling how the two met and moved in together. We witness how they've often badly handled the facts that Luke isn't out to his parents, and that while Luke is a devout Christian, Adam definitely doesn't buy into faith.

There's a genuine sweetness between the two, despite Luke's inability to reconcile his own desires with his beliefs about sin and Adam's perpetual jabs at religion. There's some palpable irony in Luke's insistence that his faith brings him peace, while it seriously complicates his relationship with his father and Adam.

The couple are supported by friends Holly (Holly Lowden) and Brandon (Daniel Mejak), who each navigate ideas about faith in their own ways, and Luke's parents Arlene (Mary Megan Bringley) and Butch (John Gaehring). All of the cast members were quite engaging throughout the entire flow of the play, and two hours flew by before I knew it. But I have to shout out Del Buono's excellence in Adam's moments of hyper drama and subtle asides alike, and Bringley's witty handling of the brassy but empathetic mom.

While the final moments of "Next Fall" are perfect (the way Adam handles the phone call!), the overall conclusion of the production offers no resolution, and perhaps rightfully so. The play insinuates a condemnation of faith for putting genuinely tragic pressures on what are otherwise happy lives, and more than one character who resists its yoke throughout finds solace in the word when things are bleakest. But the description of the solace is shallow at best, served briefly with kind of a shrug. It's that whole "there are no atheists in foxholes" thing, I guess.

That's it for "Next Fall" for this Fringe season.

"Commotion Dance Theater," which was held at MuCCC, was a light-hearted performance that required zero effort to enjoy. Presenters Ruben Ornelas and Laurie MacFarlane, who have collaborated for more than 25 years, took turns with their dance pieces. Ornelas performed wheeling, celebratory numbers set to the work of Chicano poets Joaquin Zihuatanejo and Eduardo Corral, which was broadcast while Ornelas gracefully swept his feet around the stage and arced his arms as if about to take flight.

MacFarlane's performances blended storytelling with interpretive dance -- she told of memories and dreams with both her movements and her voice. The show concluded with a silly, rambling piece by MacFarlane, accompanied by a couple of supporting dancers, who with the help of nursery school props reenacted the freeing absurdities of childhood.

"Commotion Dance Theatre" has ended its run for this year's Fringe.

I loved every second of "No More Words," a near-silent production by On the Edge Theater Troupe, which was formed out of a theater class at Monroe Community College. The absolutely gorgeous Prince Street Chamber at Lyric Theater was the perfect backdrop to the handful of black-clad, often masked players who pantomimed about a dozen diverse, brief acts, ranging from exhausted parents taking turns caring for one another, to the terrors of drug use, to a girl playing a video game and annoying the crap out of her avatar.

Without a spoken word element, the actors relied entirely on movement to convey their tales, often engaging in some truly entertaining over-the-top gestures and expressions. The clever dueling servers skit had me holding my sides, and I got genuinely choked up by the sweet final story, which saw an elderly couple seated together reminiscing while other actors performed their life story in fast-forward around them.

"No More Words" will be performed again on Wednesday, September 21, at Lyric Theatre: Prince Street Chamber. 8 p.m. $8-$10. All ages.

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