“The Velocity of Autumn” Begins Previews

On April 1, 2014, previews began for The Velocity of Autumn, a new play by Eric Coble that also played in the fall of 2013 at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.  The Broadway transfer was originally announced for last spring, but a lack of theatre availability necessitated the delay.  The play has now found a home at the intimate 780 seat Booth Theatre, one of the smallest houses on Broadway, which will allow the subtle performances to resonate with the audience.  The two-hander stars Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella, who both received strong notices from the Washington D.C. production.  Molly Smith, the artistic director of Arena Stage, serves as the director for the play.

Estelle Parsons, lively and witty at age 86, plays 79 year-old Alexandra, who barricades herself in her Brooklyn brownstone with explosives in response to her children’s plea that she leave her home.  When her estranged yet beloved son Christopher (Stephen Spinella) climbs a tree and hops in her window, they are forced to confront the issues at the heart of their family dilemma, as well as what it means to get older.  According to reviews from the Arena Stage production, the play is not as strong as the performances, but the slightly contrived set-up evolves into a touching story as the two actors brilliantly portray their characters.

Stephen Spinella won an Obie Award last year for his moving performance in the New York Theatre Workshop production of An Iliad, and he also appeared in the Public Theater’s 2011 production of Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures.  In addition, Spinella has won two Tony Awards for his role in Kushner’s Angels in America.  Estelle Parsons has been nominated for four Tony Awards, stemming back to her first nomination in 1968 for The Seven Descents of Myrtle, and she has recently appeared on Broadway in Nice Work if You Can Get It, August: Osage County, and Good People.  Furthermore, she won an Academy Award in 1967 for her role as Blanche in Bonnie and Clyde.

The Velocity of Autumn is produced by Larry Kaye of Hop Theatricals, in addition to Van Dean of the Broadway Consortium.  As for the creative team, scenic design is by Eugene Lee, costume design is by Linda Cho, lighting design is by Howell Binkley, and sound design is by Darron L. West.  The play has had several pre-Broadway runs, with its premiere at the Boise Contemporary Theater in Idaho in April 2011, and then a follow-up April 2012 production at Cleveland’s Beck Center for the Arts in Ohio, prior to the Washington D.C. run.  The capitalization amount of the Broadway production is reported to be $2.5 million, which is fairly low for a play due to its small cast.  Though this play may still have a tough time earning profits without top Hollywood names or a recognizable title, the producers may be gearing for Tony Award nominations for its actors, both of whom are awards favorites and were praised by critics for the Arena Stage production.

Shakespeare in the Park Starts With As You Like It

One of New York City theater’s most beloved traditions, the Public Theater’s annual Shakespeare in the Park, has kicked off with the opening of the season’s first production, Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It. The play concerns lots of romantic hijinks unfolding in the forest, making Central Park’s outdoor Delacorte Theater the perfect setting on a warm summer night.

As You Like It stars several Broadway stalwarts (many of whom have been featured in previous Shakespeare in the Park productions), including Lily Rabe, Andre Braugher, Oliver Platt, and Stephen Spinella. A particularly notable element of this production, which is set in the mid-19th century American South, is that it features an original bluegrass score by Steve Martin.

The most amazing thing about the Public’s Shakespeare in the Park is that it essentially provides Broadway-level talent at the lowest possible ticket price: Free. The free tickets are distributed at the Delacorte in Central Park at 1pm on show days, and early arrival is recommended (it’s often wise to go as early as 6 or 7am, so bring a book and blanket).  Up to two tickets are available per person.

You can also try the cancellation line (arriving as early as 4 or 5pm doesn’t hurt for that), or the Virtual Ticketing online lottery at shakespeareinthepark.org.  The latter is far more convenient that waiting in line for hours, but remember that it is a lottery, so your chances of winning are pretty slim.  Whichever ticket option you choose, see it soon, because As You Like It only runs through June 30.