On Aging, Family, and Molotov Cocktails

. March 13, 2019.
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The Velocity of Autumn

An estranged son; a fiery, 80-year old artist… and her enormous cache of molotov cocktails… These are the forces at play in Eric Coble’s tour de force, two-actor play, The Velocity of Autumn. On March 16 and 17, Toledo theater veterans Madge Levinson and Paul Causman will take the stage at The Valentine Theatre Studio A for a staged reading of the work, presented by Actors Collaborative Toledo (ACT) and The Valentine Theatre.

“I read The Velocity of Autumn some time ago and always wanted to direct it, if the opportunity arose,” Velocity director and ACT’s President and Co-Founder, Jeffrey J. Albright said. “[It’s] a story about growing older, facing losing one’s independence and learning to rely on others.” Velocity centers around Alexandra, the aforementioned artist. Her family has decided that it’s time for her to be moved to a nursing home. Alexandra, however, disagrees. Before anyone knows it, she’s “barricaded herself in her Brooklyn brownstone with a pile of Molotov cocktails.”

As if things couldn’t get any more complicated, her family enlists her estranged son Chris – who hasn’t seen Alexandra in 20 years – to climb through the second floor window and talk his mother down from the proverbial ledge. The play’s premise is undeniably gonzo – a common point of intergenerational, familial conflict blown so far out of proportion as to become farcical – but Coble mines the absurdity for laughs, humanity, and a genuinely affecting rumination on aging, interdependence and familial responsibility.

The relationship at the center of the show – between Alexandra and Chris, begins with torrents of fiery words and acerbic retorts. Chris – who has to manage his mother’s constant threats of violence against herself or her building along with their awkward re-union after 20 years of radio silence – quickly becomes exasperated by his mother’s refusal to listen to “reason.” Alexandra, meanwhile, unleashes her feelings about Chris’ abandonment and her rage that her family is making a crucial life decision for her without really listening to her opinion.

Alexandra just wants to be heard and respected by the people she loves and who love her. It’s a familial dramedy of errors that sees decades of mistakes converging to force Alexandra to drastic measures to retain her independence. As is often the case, rational conversation between people who genuinely care for one another carries the day.

Toledo icons sharing the stage

Causman and Levinson are well suited for this intimate two-role show. “Paul [Causman] and Madge [Levinson] are two Toledo theater veterans, legends really, but, surprisingly, they have never appeared on stage together.” said Albright. “The two of them have been friends for many years and the love that they have for each other is incredibly powerful…because of the special relationship that Paul and Madge have offstage, their onstage relationship is amazingly authentic.”

The proceeds from the March 16 and 17 performances of Velocity will benefit Jewish Family Service of Toledo. Said Albright: “Each year, Actors Collaborative Toledo likes to give back by supporting another non-profit organization.” The Jewish Family Service of Toledo is “a charity that is near and dear to both Paul and Madge, so it was a perfect fit for ACT to do this year’s benefit for them. 100% of net proceeds will support that organization.”

Saturday, March 16, 8PM and Sunday, March 17, 3PM.
$15 | The Valentine Theatre Studio A. 410 Adams St.
419-255-8000 | valentinetheatre.com/events.html