The pair discuss the new play and last year’s “Rocky Horror Show”
By Anthony King | GSD Editor
Actor Matt McGrath and Director James Vasquez have become somewhat of a dynamic duo in the San Diego theater scene. The pair worked together on the Old Globe’s successful “The Rocky Horror Show” last fall and are currently in production on Diversionary Theatre’s latest. They also hinted at another collaboration, which may see McGrath behind the scenes for Vasquez’s next project.
“I think now we’re going to have trouble getting rid of him,” Vasquez said jokingly.
This month, however, Vasquez directs McGrath in “Next Fall,” opening at the Diversionary Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 16. Written by Geoffrey Nauffts and starring McGrath, Stewart Calhoun, Tony Houck, John Whitey, Jacque Wilke and Shana Wride, “Next Fall” received two Tony Award nominations and won the John Gassner Award for Best New American Play in 2010. The show runs through March 25.
“I think one of the great things about ‘Next Fall’ and one of the great things about the path that Diversionary is headed is [the] intention to honor and always be a voice for the LGBT community,” Vasquez said. Vasquez worked previously with Diversionary and said “Next Fall” is a good way to “present human interest stories that are universal. I think that’s one of the great things about this show.”
“Next Fall” is the story of Luke and Adam, a couple in a five-year relationship that is forced with addressing issues of homophobia, faith and religion, domineering parents and partners’ rights. McGrath plays Adam, an agnostic thrown into close quarters with his boyfriend’s parents after a tragic accident. Luke’s parents, devout Christians, do not know their son is gay.
“I know a lot of gay people that have a very strong faith,” McGrath said. McGrath then told the story of his friends, a heterosexual couple, who showed support for him and his partner by recently changing churches in real life.
“They sat my partner and I down and they said, ‘We want you to know that we’re changing churches,’” McGrath said. “They cited my relationship with my partner and they said, ‘We couldn’t continue to go to this church any more because you are such a huge part of our lives and we can’t listen to intolerance and then come and have dinner with you and be a part of your life.’ I was, of course, so deeply moved that somebody had made that… shift in their faith. I feel that happening with a lot of people,” he said.
In addition to faith and religion, Vasquez said another theme in “Next Fall” is the complex interaction we have with others. “One of the big themes for me,” Vasquez said, is “…how we connect with people and how desperate we are to have a personal connection with somebody.”
Despite the drama, Vasquez and McGrath were playfully candid about their involvement at the Old Globe and the rocky circumstances that brought them together. “We both had a week to get in and salvage things [with ‘Rocky Horror’] that had kind of fallen apart,” McGrath said. McGrath replaced James Barbour for the lead when Barbour left the show during production.
Vasquez, who was brought into the production to take over for director Oanh Nguyen when Nguyen left due to artistic differences, said, “I think the show just needed somebody to jump in a steer the ship…. I felt comfortable stepping up and knew that I was going to be supported from everybody at the Globe.”
Talking back and forth, McGrath said, “Nobody really panicked. Everybody knew what needed to be done and that’s because, all of a sudden, we had James [Vasquez] moving the ball forward, down the field. Which was great.”
Laughing, McGrath added, “Did I just make a sports reference? That’s awesome.”
“Change it to disco ball,” Vasquez said.
“So, moving that disco ball down the field, we ended up having a really good time together,” McGrath said.
“I think everybody involved came out extremely proud and with their high-heels held high,” Vasquez added.
The pair said the hope the same is true for the “Next Fall” production, too. “Some people are going to love it and that’s fantastic,” Vasquez said. “If they can go away having been moved and question and want to have discussion, fantastic. That’s great. Of course we want that. Of course we want to push buttons. Sometimes we just want to laugh and escape, and that’s okay too.”