Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Velocity of Autumn @ The Booth Theater

Growing old is never easy. It doesn’t get easier when your aging mother locks herself in her house and threatens to burn it the ground since your siblings won’t leave her alone. That is the essence of the story one can expect when stepping into The Booth Theatre on Broadway to experience the brand new play, The Velocity of Autumn now in performances.

Written by Eric Coble, the story profiles an aging woman Alexandra who has locked herself inside her brown stone in Park Slope and is threatening to burn the place down if her two children don’t leave her alone and let her be. It is only when a surprise appearance by her third child occurs, literally surprising her as he climbs into the second story of her house, that things begin to shift. Her son, Chris, sits down and talks with her. He doesn’t have to plead with her because before he knows it, which comes out of their conversations in which he has with her simply catching up on all he has missed since he has been gone.

Estelle Parsons stars as Alexandra in the new piece and delivers a stirring performance as the aging mother of three. Parsons brings to life a character many audience members instantly connect with from their own lives. She delivers several emotional monologues including one about losing herself as she ages, which really connects with the audience. As the play goes on, she not only finds herself more vulnerable but also leaves the audience more vulnerable a well. Through her, we better understand our role as caretakers to those in our lives who we help. We realize we must not talk down or belittle their actions as they already doing it themselves constantly. I feel confident in saying; this piece would not be possible without Parsons at the helm.

Stephen Spinella stars as Chris in the production and gives Parsons a run for her money delivering an equally as impressive performance. Spinella connects to many of the audience members who are also taking care of their parents and channels the emotions and actions many of us have taken with those we deem older. However, Spinella’s connection to his mother is one of a kind. He not only channels a person we all are at times but shows us how easily we can change the way we handle situations simply by switching how we look at it. Much like Parsons, he delivers several beautiful monologues about life and also has a few hilarious New York jokes you can’t help but crack up over. He is definitely not overshadowed by Parsons performance and is a great actor to play such a role.

As for the technical elements of the production, there is a unit set apartment, designed by Eugene Lee, which is capped off by a giant, beautiful tree just outside the residence. I won’t give away the symbolism in it but I will add there is some fantastic lighting as the day progresses designed by Rui Rita.

I feel like my lack of a recommendation to run to see The Velocity of Autumn comes from my lack of experience in such a situation as the play puts forth. However, it did connect with an overwhelming amount of the audience who left buzzing regarding their similar situations to the play they just witnessed. And while I can’t say I connected with The Velocity of Autumn at this point in my life personally, I can say that when that time comes, I feel as though I will be able to better approach said situation having seen this piece.

Review By: Chris Luner

Photos By: Joan Marcus

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