~ by Rebecca Nimerfroh ~
One of the reasons to see a play as opposed to a film is that unlike the mundane and overly tired themes repeated in every “rom-com” or action flick, you just never know what you are going to get. There’s no happy-ending guaranteed – in fact, there’s no guarantees at all. The humor tends to be wry; the sad stuff tends to be sadder. It’s just that much more real. And make no exception; this is certainly the case with The Velocity of Autumn, the hilarious yet heartfelt production running in the stunning new location of the White Heron Theatre Company on North Water Street, just behind the Whaling Museum until August 20th.
The Velocity of Autumn is set in a Brooklyn brownstone apartment, and the lights go up on the scene, showing an elderly woman asleep in her chair, and at the window behind her, a man is clinging to a tree, knocking on the glass to come in. It’s her son, and although she hasn’t seen him in many years she tells him to go away or she’ll blow the entire place up by lighting one of her many Molotov Cocktails, something she’s crafted from her late husband’s film developing fluid. Eventually her son does tumble in, and in an attempt to literally and figuratively “disarm” his mother’s situation, the two enjoy a banter that is both sentimental, hilarious and fiery, leaving the audience at times to question which one of these two is the captive, and which one the negotiator.
Presented without an intermission, this 90-minute drama by Eric Coble, directed on Nantucket by Skip Greer is an experience much like a fly on a wall, where the audience is allowed to watch and listen as Alexandra (played convincingly by Sandra Shipley), the aging mother in a standoff for her independence, refuses to be moved by her family into a nursing home, and says if she has to, she will light her apartment on fire and go down in flames with it. Her son Chris, who had no choice but to climb the tree to enter her apartment because she had barricaded the door, attempts to diffuse the situation at hand, but because he hasn’t seen his mother in nearly twenty-years, the situation proves tricky to say the least.
Chris (played endearingly by Oliver Wadsworth) is equipped only with an arsenal of sentimental memories, the fun times they shared together as she raised him, like the time he and his mother raced up the spiral ramp of the Guggenheim Museum. Both painters, they bonded over their love of art and these memories, although happy, are abutted by Alexandra’s hilarious remarks on everything from potty-training her reluctant son, to the fact that he has been gone so long and must only be there for his own selfish reasons. They fight, they laugh, they cry. They are like any of us, a mother and a son, real, with no emotional stone left unturned in their heated argument.
Do not miss this powerful production of The Velocity of Autumn, for either its comedy or its sentimentality is sure to get you, and stay with you a long while, for who of us has not sat with an aging parent, or felt pushed into a life we were reluctant to lead? This play is a reminder that of all the things we have and of all the things we do, our relationships are what we take with us, and they are the things that are the most important of all.
For more information and to reserve tickets, visit Whiteherontheatre.org.