The apron of the Booth Theatre stage is decorated
with Molotov Cocktails. NOT YOUR AVERAGE SET!
The star is 86 years old playing a 79 year old!
I didn’t care much for the title, but “The Velocity
of Autumn” turns out to be a very good play. It’s on stage at the Booth Theater
on Broadway, the first for playwright Eric Coble, who grew up on an Indian
reservation. He now lives with wife and children in Cleveland, OH. His one and one half hour exploration of old age is a wonderful
vehicle for Estelle Parsons. She is feisty Alexandra, a 79 year old woman living
in a brownstone in Brooklyn, who demands that she be allowed to stay in her
home. Her grown children, Jennifer and
Michael, whom we never see, want to move her into a nursing home. She refuses and has armed herself with many
Molotov cocktails. She’s made them from developing fluid, she tells her son,
Chris, who has climbed through the window to talk her out of blowing up the
house and the street.
The set by Eugene Lee is a beauty. It is Alexandra’s
living room comfortable with books; there is a beautiful window facing the
front filled with a Maple tree heavy with glowing fall leaves. Furniture is
piled in front of the front door preventing entrance or exit. Alexandra is
armed with a tiny black iron skillet, a bomb and a zippo lighter. Chris, the
award-winning actor, Stephen Spinella, is sporting grey hair and a pony tail.
He hasn’t seen his mother in 20 years; never even came to his father’s funeral.
His mother expresses shock: “You look old,” she says. She tries to send him
away, but little by little, they talk. He was her favorite, but he left when
his dad found out that he was gay. Mother and son are both artists and share that
Alexandra admits she can’t paint anymore and the
pains and aches of aging are taking a toll. I’m shrinking and the world is
changing she complains. I’m no longer me! Mother is angry; son is desperate.
Estelle Parsons gives a strong, vibrant performance, filled with life. Spinella has a habit of whispering through
his speeches. Doesn’t the director, Molly Smith, notice this? No matter- Parsons
is a champ!
“The Velocity of Autumn.” Booth Theatre. Broadway.