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!