PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: The Velocity of Autumn — Spunk, Spark and Boom!

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22 Apr 2014

Estelle Parsons
Estelle Parsons
Monica Simoes

Playbill.com offers a behind-the-scenes look at opening night of Eric Coble's The Velocity of Autumn.

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When the curtain rose April 21 at the Booth, Estelle Parsons was discovered resting in a favorite easy chair in her Park Slope living room, a Molotov cocktail in one hand and her daddy's Zippo in the other. It's Granny's last stand, and the old lady is showing her mettle, quelling her kids' notion of a nursing home as quick as she can.

Eric Coble has named his first Broadway play The Velocity of Autumn, which is one of those titles like The Square Root of Wonderful or "The Opposite of Sex" that is poetic but doesn't compute. This one makes a mite more sense, having to do with days (and options) dwindling down to a precious few, whizzing by like comets for the elderly toward a big cloudy blur. "What God is taking away from me is me," declares the play's befogged but still defiant Alexandra. "That's one hell of a betrayal."

"I think we all feel that speeding up and up and up as we get older," reasoned the playwright. "For each of us, where we are in that speeding is always a variable. Certainly, I think that it is getting a lot faster for the character of Alexandra."

Coble's immediate concern is to get some talk going in the play, which he achieves by sending in a one-man S.W.A.T. team to negotiate — a favorite (if now estranged) first-born, Chris (Stephen Spinella), who enters the second-story picture-window to charm and disarm her, thanks to the mighty, autumn-colored oak he climbed as a child.

"You've gotten old," says the startled Alexandra, inspecting the ravaged and somewhat wasted life in front of her. The artistic bent he inherited from her has been reduced to "working with sunflower seeds" in New Mexico, he confesses reluctantly, prompting her to scoff, "It sounds dangerously close to folk art."

It's a frequently funny play because it has to be. "I think the issues are so poignant in a lot of ways and so real for people that I felt like the humor had to be there," explained Coble. "And I knew, again, Estelle and Stephen are very funny actors."



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