The Velocity of Autumn written by Eric Coble and directed by Vanita Rae Smith is a one-act, 90-minute play now on stage at The Actors' Group until November 20. This production features Jo Pruden as Alexandra and Peter Togawa as Alexandra's son, Chris.
The play opens into what is a second floor brownstone apartment in Brooklyn. There is a large, beautiful tree just outside the windows of the living room. We notice that the door to the apartment has been barricaded by furniture and scattered around the living room are what appear to be bottles of Molotov cocktails, many Molotov cocktails.
Alexandra is an 80-year-old artist at war with her children. She wants to stay and live out her remaining days in her brownstone, a place that she's familiar with; her home. Her children have different ideas. Not being able to reason with their mother, they send her son Chris to try and talk some sense into her. However, Chris has been estranged from the family for twenty years. Still, he climbs the tree and breaks into Alexandra's apartment, climbing through the window. As Chris struggles to reason with Alexandra and explain the benefits of leaving the brownstone, Alexandra offers her own ideas of why it would be better for her to remain. There are moments when Alexandra and Chris seem cut from the same cloth. Their conversations are seemingly alike and familiar. They share a common bond. Chris is truly his mother's son.
Jo Pruden plays Alexandra as a multi-layered, multi-faceted, feisty woman. We feel her anger, dismay and frustration when she laments about aging and all the drolls that accompany it. We follow her down the rabbit hole, hoping that there is an escape from this eventual reality.
Peter Togawa as Chris is fun to watch. Togawa is often cast in musicals and Velocity marks a successful first venture into non-musical theatre. That being said, the two actors' differing theatrical backgrounds complimented, rather than opposed, each other.
Vanita Rae Smith directs with strokes of realism. The characters move naturally and counter each other effectively on the Brooklyn brownstone set co-designed by Smith and Andy Alvarado. Lighting design by Thomas Tochiki is simple yet effective. Christine Valles hit the mark with costumes that have personality and a sense of place.