So a gay fundamentalist Christian, an agnostic Jew, and a lapsed Catholic walk into an emergency room. Maybe you've heard this one before, but for actor Patrick Heusinger, the equally moving and hilarious Next Fall offered something rare. 'Too many things rang too true, and there were too many people close to me who needed to see this,' he says.
Heusinger plays Luke, a cute aspiring actor newly arrived from Florida who happens to be gay and a fundamentalist Christian -- much of which wasn't a stretch for the straight Jacksonville native who was raised Catholic. The action of the play is primarily told in flashback while Adam, Luke's lover of five years, two friends, and Luke's parents wait outside his hospital room after he's been in an accident.
It isn't until the show's fourth scene that we learn that the central conflict in Luke and Adam's otherwise enviable relationship is religion: Adam is resolutely atheist, Luke unquestioningly devout. It's a deft tactic that allows the audience to see each character as a human being before being tempted to take sides, something the show itself refuses to do. Though perhaps timely, Next Fall's themes are, of course, timeless, yet never tedious nor clich', thanks to astutely observed and bitingly funny dialogue from playwright Geoffrey Nauffts (who is also a writer for ABC's Brothers & Sisters and artistic director of the Naked Angels theater company). 'I couldn't get it out of my head -- the incredibly organic story of real people having such a real struggle to love one another,' says Heusinger. 'At its core it's a very beautiful love story. Even if there's no such thing as a 'gay play' 50 years from now -- even if every piece of legislation that you and I want to pass as far as gay rights goes has passed -- it will still be extremely relevant.'
Fans of Gossip Girl might recognize Heusinger, who played Blair Waldorf's summer fling, Lord Marcus, in four episodes. The 29-year-old actor, who also appeared on 30 Rock and Rescue Me and toured the United States with Monty Python's Spamalot from 2006 to 2008, was making great strides on the small screen when he auditioned for the off-Broadway production of Next Fall in the spring of 2009. 'Nobody in the business wanted me to do plays anymore,' remembers Heusinger. 'I was just starting to do a good amount of TV. I was testing for a lot of roles, pilot season was going well, and there I was, begging to do a play in a 100-seat theater for less than $200 a week. But sometimes there's a moment in your life where you get so excited about something that you'll do just about anything to make it happen. I remember when I was cast, I called my parents screaming. I called my high school drama coach like I'd just been offered the lead in Avatar.'
In February, Next Fall's entire original cast and director Sheryl Kaller moved to Broadway with a little help from new producers Elton John and David Furnish, and Heusinger couldn't be happier to play Luke again to bigger audiences. 'I don't think there's anywhere I'd rather be working, honestly,' he gushes. 'There's a reason I chose this play, and there's a reason I'm playing this character. This is not necessarily an opportunity that will present itself again, and these are the things I want people to talk about.'