Theater Review - The Velocity of Autumn (NY)

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 passion.

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. 

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