Last Wednesday our good friend, Casey surprised us with a pair of tickets to the pre-broadway engagement of The Velocity of Autumn, starring Academy Award winner, Estelle Parsons and two-time Tony Award winner, Stephen Spinella. Written by Eric Coble and directed by the all-amazing Molly Smith of Arena Stage, this play of two on-stage characters takes you into the aging and glowingly lonesome life of Alexandra and her gay son, Christopher.
The entire play takes place in Alexandra’s Brooklyn brownstone living room, filled with arsenal of molotov cocktails and a woman with her husband’s Zippo lighter who’s on the edge of blowing up the entire block in a painfully desperate attempt to stay in her home. Her estranged son, Christopher lives in New Mexico and returns to New York City, reluctantly becomes the family negotiator between his exhausted and seemingly volatile mother and his siblings. This beautiful play is a compelling story of what seems like a long-lost mother-son relationship, whom both have more in common than they realize. The audience are provided with the opportunity to witness the living room ping-pong match of extremely funny dialogue as well as deeply touching moments, as these mother and son characters re-discover their bond and love through unconventional ways.
The splendor of any good play, is being able to relate, sympathize, and empathize. In the ever-increasing velocity of a me world, do we pause in our life to think about the ins and outs of our relationships with our family members, especially those who are aging? When we seem to grow distant from family members (and long-time friends for that matter) through differences in our lives, beliefs, and understandings – do we embrace and nurture the bonds we once had to begin with, or do reconcile such distance, being that too much time has passed in placing little or any effort into trying to rebuild what once was?
I’ve often asked myself those same questions about the relationship between me and my 81 year-old grandmother. Though we weren’t entirely close when I was younger, there was still a profound bond between the both of us. As I grew up, we both became distant to a degree, and after father passed away – we re-connected our relationship and have continued to nurture it since then. Perhaps we needed each other the most as she began to grieve the loss of her first-born son and I began to grieve the loss of my father. In many ways we are alike, and in many more ways we are very different in “where we’ve been” and what we believe. Yet though the beauty and mystery of the family bond, we depend on each other in many special ways. I interpret that this is very similar for Alexandra and Christopher – though years of separation have passed, they have reached a point in their lives where they need and depend on each other.
The Velocity of Autumn is playing through October 20, 2013 at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater’s Kreeger Auditorium. If you’re a DC local, I highly recommend that you enjoy this great theatre production!
This afternoon my fiancé and I had the joy of watching our good friend, Chris take to the stage in the role of The Pirate King in W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s operetta, The Pirates of Penzance. The cast and production team consist of members of the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) community, and The GLBT Arts Consortium who dedicate their time and talent every summer to beloved Gilbert & Sullivan shows.
Pirates of Penzance is perhaps G&S’ most enduring hit! It’s filled with great tunes plus more than the usual ration of satire and silliness. It’s a fast-paced show that requires good singing and an even greater talent for rapidly biting off those consonants in the dynamic duo’s famous patter-songs.
The story begins on the rocky seashore of the Cornwall coast. The pirates offer a toast to Frederic. Now that Frederic is twenty-one and his apprenticeship over, the men assume that he will join their band permanently. Ruth, a “piratical maid of all work’” explains that, as Frederic’s nursery maid, she had been instructed by his father to have the boy apprenticed to a pilot, but she misheard and instead took Frederic to a pirate. Her shame upon realizing her error led her to join the pirate band herself.
Now that his obligation to the pirates has ended, duty compels Frederic to devote himself to destroying them. When the men admit their inability to make piracy pay, Frederic explains that they are themselves slaves to their tender hearts, particularly about their refusal to take advantage of anyone they believe to be an orphan.
Ruth longs for Frederic to take her with him when he leaves. He has had no opportunity to compare her with other women, but when he decides that she should stay with the pirates, they reply that they cannot deprive him of his beloved. Frederic wishes he could bring the pirates back to a respectable life, but the Pirate King rejects that possibility. Alone with Ruth, Frederic admits his reluctance to marry her, though he is satisfied that, despite her age, she is beautiful. But when he sees a group of lovely young women approaching, he rages at her for deceiving him.
The girls descend to the shore, delighting in their surroundings. They are astonished to meet Frederic and horrified to hear that he is a pirate. He assures them that, having just abandoned that profession, he now wants only to love one of them. They all reject him except Mabel, who reproaches her sisters for being deaf to pity. The girls distract themselves, so that Frederic and Mabel can have a few moments alone.
The pirates suddenly surprise the girls and expect soon to become their husbands. Mabel reminds them that she and her sisters are wards in chancery (i.e. minors under the protection of the Court of Chancery), and that their ‘father’ is a major general. The Major General enters and objects to the girls being married against their wills to the pirates of Penzance. He lies his way out of the situation by claiming to be an orphan. The girls are released from the pirates’ clutches, as Mabel and Frederic – ignoring the pleas of Ruth – look forward to their marriage.
The girls comfort the Major-General, who is upset because he believes his lie has shamed the family name and he fears the consequences. Frederic will soon march against the pirates accompanied by the police, who now arrive. They eventually leave to attend to the business at hand, but only after repeated urging by the Major General.
Alone, Frederic contemplates atoning for his years with the pirates, when Ruth and the Pirate King enter. They explain that Frederic was to be apprenticed until his twenty first birthday; having been born in a leap year on 29 February, he is officially only five. The Pirate King insists that Frederic respect his own sense of duty, whereupon the obedient young man informs him that the Major General lied about being an orphan. The Pirate King and Ruth swear vengeance.
Frederic informs Mabel that he will not reach his twenty-first birthday until 1940. Convinced that he can ignore the pirates’ claim, she begs him to stay with her and swears to be faithful. After he leaves, Mabel tells the policemen that Frederic has returned to the pirates, praising him for his sense of duty. The Sergeant laments the difficulties the constabulary faces. The policemen hide as soon as the pirates arrive.
Unable to sleep, the Major General enters. The girls chide him for leaving his bed at this time of night. Frederic and the pirates seize the Major General and overcome the police. When the Sergeant implores the pirates to yield in the Queen’s name, Ruth reveals that they are peers of the realm. With this revelation, they are pardoned by the Major-General, who rewards them with the girls’ hands in marriage.
You can’t help but smile, sway to the rhythm of the music, and laugh!
I’ve forgotten what a joy community theater is, and have been renewed in the importance of supporting local community theater. God bless the arts!