Booth Theatre, (4/21/2014 - 5/04/2014)

First Preview: Apr 01, 2014
Opening Date: Apr 21, 2014
Closing Date: May 04, 2014
Total Previews: 22
Total Performances: 16

Category: Play, Comedy, Original, Broadway

Opening Night Production Staff

Theatre Owned / Operated by The Shubert Organization (Philip J. Smith: Chairman; Robert E. Wankel: President)

Produced by Larry Kaye & HOP Theatricals, Van Dean & The Broadway Consortium, Joan Raffe & Jhett Tolentino, Catherine & Fred Adler, Michael J. Moritz Jr. and KIRN Productions; Produced in association with Neal Rubinstein, R. Erin Craig/Markus Potter & Seiler-Smith, Franklin Theatrical & James Valletti/James L. Simon & Stephen Ganns, Kimberly Loren Eaton/Jonathan Demar & Monica Raymund and Rob Hinderliter & Dominick LaRuffa, Jr./Tony McAnany; Associate Producer: Joan & Marvin Rosenberg, Sharleen Cooper Cohen/John Perkoff & Michelle Schaap, Lauren Class Schneider and Craig J. Horsley/Michael Rubenstein

Written by Eric Coble

Directed by Molly Smith; Associate Director: Matt Lenz

Scenic Design by Eugene Lee; Costume Design by Linda Cho; Lighting Design by Rui Rita; Sound Design by Darron L. West; Associate Scenic Design: Edward Pierce, Nick Francone and Jen Price; Associate Costume Design: Nancy Palmatier; Associate Sound Design: Charles Coes; Assistant Lighting Design: Amanda Zieve; Assistant Sound Design: Beth Lake; Lighting Programmer: Alan Schuster

General Manager: Foresight Theatrical and Mark D. Shacket; Company Manager: Carol M. Oune

Technical Supervisor: Juniper Street Productions; Production Stage Manager: Bonnie L. Becker; Stage Manager: Scott Rowen

Casting Director: Geoff Josselson; Press Representative: Polk & Co.; Advertising: AKA; Marketing: AKA; Website Design & Internet Marketing: AKA; Photographer: Joan Marcus

Opening Night Cast

Estelle ParsonsAlexandra
Stephen SpinellaChris

Understudies: Libby George (Alexandra) and Steven Hauck (Chris)

Awards and Nominations

Tony Award®

 2014 Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play [nominee] 

Estelle Parsons


AP: "B'way's 'Velocity of Autumn' Wry, Spirited"

Not many old people who fear being shipped off to a nursing home fight back with a home arsenal and bomb threats.

However, the inimitable Estelle Parsons has gleefully unleashed her inner anarchist with gusto to do just that in the dark comedy "Velocity of Autumn," which opened Monday night in a wry, spirited Broadway production at the Booth Theatre.

Playwright Eric Coble presents the aging decay of the human mind and body as a necessary process replete with mordantly humorous and empathetic moments. He lightens the potentially depressing subject matter by providing plenty of comedic zingers to both Academy Award-winner Parsons — here powerful and ingratiating — and to her co-star, the equally skilled Stephen Spinella.

Both of these pros imbue their characters with genuine poignancy, rueful humor and their own adept timing. Molly Smith's deft direction also creates a sense of urgency during the 90-minute showdown about a seeming no-win situation.

Parsons plays Alexandra, an elderly widowed artist who's grown tired of fighting the mental and physical indignities of old age. Independent and feisty, she's self-barricaded inside her Brooklyn brownstone, while two of her adult children wait impatiently outside, threatening by phone to either put her into a nursing home or call the police because of her bomb threats.

Alexandra is both thrilled and angry when Chris, her long-estranged and once-favorite third child, (a very likable portrayal by Spinella), climbs into her room through an open window. Sympathetically but urgently, he attempts to dissuade his mom from lighting up the dozens of Molotov cocktails she's prepared for her showdown.

Spinella, winner of two Tony Awards, is a delight as a downtrodden, middle-aged man fighting inner despair over his failures in life. Parsons ranges with nuance between squirrely eccentricity, raspy anger and anguished despair, as she fights to convince her son that she needs to stay in her beloved home. At one point, she slowly collapses into herself, much like a deflated balloon.

As the pair reminisce somewhat fractiously, Alexandra makes telling points about the less joyous aspects of motherhood, in particular her dismay about the neediness of her young children ("You were always there!"). But most of her anger centers on increasing physical frailty and mental confusion. "Old age is one big game of 'Surprise,'" she notes with regret, adding, "You never know how you are until you get up."

Mother and son re-bond in many ways, both yearning for a way to find grace and beauty even in decline. As embodied by these two high-caliber performances, Coble creates a thoughtful, potentially enriching gift to the audience.


New York Daily News: "The Velocity of Autumn"

There’s a compelling and worthwhile story out there about an age-addled woman’s battle to live out her life in her own home.

“The Velocity of Autumn” isn’t it.

Toggling between glib one-liners and florid speeches, Eric Coble’s two-hander adds nada to this topical conversation, along the way wasting a meaty subject, the talents of Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella and the audience’s time and money.

The show lands on Broadway following a run in Washington, D.C., but director Molly Smith’s production is static, which means “park here and holler” (for Parsons) and “stand there and speak softly” (for Spinella).

That’s basically what goes down for an hour and a half in a Brooklyn brownstone where widowed Alexandra (Parsons), a 79-year-old artist, has barricaded herself in lieu of being sent to a nursing home. She’s got the Molotov cocktails ready, and has a lighter in her hand. Either she stays — or the building goes.

Long-estranged son Chris (Spinella), a middle-aged drifter with a gray ponytail and bad luck with men, is summoned by his two siblings to defuse the bomb that is Mom.

The inevitable conclusion is supposed to show how explosive life can turn. But the story presents life in such broad strokes and black and white that there’s nothing at stake.

Performances are likewise unshaded. Spinella has won Tonys for his nuanced work in “Angels in America.” But that form is nowhere to be found here, including an overemotive speech punctuated with fists flying up and down and in and out. It’s too little — and too much.

Parsons has made a career of full-throttle performances, stretching from her Oscar-winning work in “Bonnie and Clyde” to “August: Osage County” on stage. But she’s monochromatic and screechy here.

She quiets down occasionally, as when she informs Chris she knows that his being gay made his dad “uncomfortable. Like Gorgonzola cheese.”

“I have no idea how to respond to that,” he responds.

But this play elicits a definite response: avoid.

New York Daily News

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