Kevin Sessums reviews theatre for Towleroad. In an exclusive interview, he talks to Next Fall's Patrick Breen about the show, and his sexuality, which Breen discusses here for the first time.
Patrick Breen is the emotional anchor of Geoffrey Nauffts’s hit Broadway play, Next Fall, in which he stars as the atheist boyfriend of the Born Again Christian younger guy who prays for forgiveness each time they have sex. Nauffts play is a heartfelt comedy about redemption and how our differences as gay men are able to be bridged not only by a brittle wit but also an innate goodness. The production recently moved to Broadway after a sold-out run off-Broadway last spring and Elton John and his husband, David Furnish, came on-board as producers to give the production a bit of show-biz cache. Ben Brantley, in his New York Times review, called the play a “genuine rara avis, a smart, sensitive, utterly contemporary New York comedy.”
Smart. Sensitive. Utterly contemporary. That could be an apt description of Breen himself, who is a half Sicilian/half Irish native of Staten Island. He is both a founding member of MCC theatre and Naked Angels, where Next Fall got its start. We met for tea last week on his way to the Helen Hayes Theatre where Next Fall is playing next door to Green Day’s American Idiot at the St. James.
PATRICK BREEN: Yeah, we share a wall — the Helen Hayes and the St. James and they were very kind to us. Their sound designers came in with decibel meters in our theatre. They blasted stuff from their side and we couldn’t hear a thing. They were so great to us. They didn’t want to interfere with our show because our show is really quiet at times. So the first preview they had their show comes down at like quarter to ten and our is still going on. I’m in one of my quieter scenes and suddenly we hear screams from the street because Green Day was there. So they had soundproofed the wall well and put their woofers the right direction and stuff but you couldn’t soundproof the girls screaming on the street. We were thinking, Are we going to hear that every night?
KEVIN SESSUMS: So do you have gay guys screaming outside of Next Fall?
PB: Yes, at the stage door and sometimes on the subway as well when they come up to me now.
KS: I’m so happy for Geoffrey Nauffts. I’ve known him for a long time and used to have such a crush on him.
PB: Me too. I even knew him in college at NYU and I’m 49 now. Then we were in Naked Angels together.
KS: Elton John coming in as a producer must have helped the move to Broadway.
PB: It helped a lot. He’s been so good about publicity. He was on The View. He did Oprah today. His coming in was incredibly helpful because we’re nobody. Just a bunch of off-Broadway actors. We don’t have a big star. We don’t have music. What we have to offer is a really good play. I’ve done three workshops of it. At one point out in LA Zachary Quinto played Luke, my boyfriend in the play.
KS: Some people have a hard time believing that such different guys would be lovers - the age difference, the difference in belief systems. Is it just based on hot sex?
PB: Hmmmm ... that could maybe last a year. The relationship lasts five years in the play. They love each other and establish some kind of ground rules of what they can and cannot talk about to make the relationship work.
KS: Even though Luke, the Christian role, is imbued with a kind of heightened shame in the play, your character, Adam, has a different kind of shame. More crippling in its way. He’s chosen to love a shameful person — which is a form of shame that is even more insidious since he doesn’t own it outright like Luke does.
PB: I think you’re right. I think there is an inherent kernel of homophobia in Adam that unconsciously is being expressed through his relationship with Luke.
KS: I have no problem believing in the relationship. The only thing I have a problem with believing is that they sell candles in a candle shop in Manhattan and live in such a nice apartment.
PB: It looked smaller off-Broadway but how do you close the walls in for Broadway house and still suggest — which I think is really beautiful — the convention of the waiting room in the hospital becoming the apartment becoming the waiting room. That back and forth is really effective.
KS: What I find so moving about the play — without giving too much away — is that the things that Luke believes in and Adam rails against in the play are the things that finally help Adam come to terms with what happens to Luke. Adam is healed by Luke’s beliefs even if they are not his own.
PB: I think what Geoffrey is trying to say is that love between two people — no matter what they believe in their crazy religions or non-religions and Adam’s hypochondria and New Yorkiness is a kind of urban religion — is what matters.
KS: You said you used to have a crush on Geoffrey also. Are you gay or straight?
Continued, AFTER THE JUMP...