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Libby George and Stephen Spinella
The Velocity of Autumn
By Eric Coble
(The Velocity of AutumnWebsite)

At the
Booth Theatre
222 West 45th Street

Directed by Molly Smith

Scenic Design: Eugene Lee
Costume Design: Linda Cho
Lighting Design: Rui Rita
Sound Design: Darron L. West
Assoc. Director: Matt Lenz
Production Stage Manager: Bonnie L. Becker
Advertising and Marketing: AKA
Casting: Geoff Josselson
Technical Supervisor: Juniper Street Productions
Press Representative: Polk & Co.
General Management: Foresight Theatrical/Mark Shacket
Company Manager: Carol M. Oune

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 26, 2014 Matinee

As it turned out today, Estelle Parsons, lead and only actress in this new one-act play by Eric Coble, is ill. In her place, Libby George did a splendid job as substitute, as Alexandra, the octogenarian who’s fighting with her children to remain in her Brooklyn apartment. Two of the three children are offstage characters, with the third, Chris (Stephen Spinella), entering through a tree-shaded window. For ninety minutes or so, mother and son verbally joust like a fencing match, at one point coming perilously close to blowing up the brownstone with Molotov cocktails. Yes, dozens of bottles and jars of white filmy fluid, with cloth rags falling like dead lilies from each opening, are placed all about the floor and up to the edge of the stage. That edge of the stage drew many from the audience, prior to the show, to come close and check them out.

Chris had been estranged from the family for two decades, minding his business in New Mexico, where he had just ended yet another relationship, when he was urged by his sister and brother to lure Alexandra to a senior home, as she wasn’t eating well, wasn’t controlling her tantrums, and, generally, wasn’t succumbing to her children’s control. Since his siblings were too aggressive and impatient to persuade Alexandra to leave her home or allow them to discard the fanciful, incendiary devices, they brought in the gentler, kinder Chris to handle the job. His persona was that of an overage hippie, living on the edge, long ponytailed hair, filled with despair and grievances dating way back when. One might imagine how Estelle Parsons would have handled this witty and poignant, non-stop dialogue, but, like wondering if the Molotov cocktails would explode (introductory sound effects let us hear what the ensuing explosion would be like), it’s a guessing game. What I’m happy to report is that my guest and I were very satisfied with Libby George’s performance and take on the role. She wasn’t wry, or bitter, or acerbic. Rather, she showed a sense of vulnerability, of despair, of determination. Ms. George and Mr. Spinella had tremendous chemistry on this cluttered stage, with faded, old furniture and explosives ready to be lit.

Mr. Spinella exuded tough love, sharing some of his personal sagas, while revealing his sense of loss of closeness and missed opportunities. Motherhood wasn’t Alexandra’s favorite hobby, as she implies. But, who knows what she was like, back then, before age started doing tricks with her muscles and mind. Ms. George walked with a strained lumbering gait, sat and stood slowly, seemed needy but steely. Molly Smith directed for authenticity of affect and emotion. She zeroed in on the characters’ seesaw-shifts of trust and distrust, connection and separation. Eugene Lee’s unforgettable set drew the outdoors in, with a large visible branch being Alexandra’s connection to nature, to seasons, to strength. Mr. Lee’s stuffy brownstone living room was replete with nuanced detail. Alexandra was a painter, but her loss of small muscle control caused her to take down her art. Rui Rita’s lighting was somewhere between warm and foreboding. Darron L. West’s sound enabled dialogue to be bright and clear. We never knew until the end if Alexandra would take down the home, the street, maybe even the block, to avoid leaving peacefully with Chris or the cops. Kudos to Libby George for coming to the rescue of today’s matinee.

Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella
in "Velocity of Autumn"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at