Given the present state of the world, barricading one’s self at home and keeping everyone at bay with Molotov cocktails doesn’t sound like a bad idea. But the children of 79-year old Alexandra have other ideas and task the youngest sibling, Chris, to reason with her. That is the premise of Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of Eric Coble’s play, The Velocity of Autumn.
Over the course of 90 minutes, this mother and son duo banter, argue and, of course, reminisce, though most of the focus is on Alexandra and her feelings about the indignities of aging. Perhaps her most heart-wrenching revelation is her shrewd acknowledgment of how her adult children now regard her.
Mary K. Rowland delivers a compelling portrait of a feisty, independent, aging woman who often waxes poetic yet also shows genuine frustration when her mind falters. Whether she is reminiscing or raging, her determination to live on her own terms is clear.
Her estranged son, Chris, played with a potent mixture of mid-life angst and regret by Landon Henry, is the sensitive, youngest, and once-favorite child. He doesn’t really know himself but divulges some recent experiences that have left him reeling. The two begin to connect when they come to understand how much they are alike.
Rowland’s and Henry’s powerful performances almost obscure the relative thinness of Coble’s script. Their palpable tension is a tribute to the adroit direction of Patrick Torres, and keeps the play from veering too far into the maudlin and sentimental.
Designer Jeannine Borzello’s set also adds authenticity and highlights the dilemma of adult children navigating the travail of aged parents. Alexandra very poignantly conveys the gradual loss of self that often occurs and then robs one of the enjoyments of many of life’s pleasures. Arguably, that is probably the most potent message of this play: she reminds us of the need for resiliency as we age.
The Raleigh Little Theatre production of THE VELOCITY OF AUTUMN runs through October 3rd. For more information visit: https://raleighlittletheatre.org/.