I’m at the point in my life where I’ve started thinking about growing old, and what that means. When you’re younger, it seems so impossibly far away it’s almost like a fairy tale – you’ll never get to that point, not you! But when you reach middle-age, time’s sped up, somehow, and you realize that getting old is, honestly, right around the corner. Will you be able to take care of yourself? Will you have someone in your life to help you? Will you have your health – physical and mental? Who will you be in those last few years of life? Hubbard Hall’s The Velocity of Autumn brings us into two people’s lives, both of whom who are dealing with these thoughts, and manages to tug at our hearts in the process.
Alexandra (Christine Decker), an elderly artist whose mind is starting to slip a bit, has been told by two of her children she has to leave her home in Brooklyn and move to a retirement community. She’s barricaded the doors, filled the brownstone with Molotov cocktails and is waiting for the police to arrive – no going gently into that good night for her – when her estranged son Chris (Oliver Wadsworth), also an artist and the child with whom she has the most in common, climbs in through the window to talk to her.
Decker and Wadsworth are powerful together in this piece, and director David Snider does great work with them and with keeping a somewhat talky show moving and lively throughout. Decker’s portrayal of a self-reliant woman brought low was heartbreaking; as a creative person myself, the thought of losing my ability to express myself is a terrifying one, and Decker brings that across beautifully. Wadsworth is both touching and humorous; his character goes from comedic to tragic with lightning-quick force, and he is completely relatable – setting out on your own is such a brave thing, but what’s to be said about someone who comes back home? The chemistry between the two actors is strong and true – you have no trouble believing they’re mother and son – and the emotion between them is deep.
Darcy May’s scenic design is perfect – a cluttered Brooklyn brownstone filled with books and ephemera collected over Alexandra’s lifetime, with rich colors and plenty to look at. The tree outside the window, in the last blazing gasp of autumn, is a perfect metaphor for Alexandra herself.
There were plenty of tears from the audience as we filed out, after the standing ovation – many patrons were about Alexandra’s age, and one woman, wiping at her eyes, said “I feel like this one really got me.” And that’s what we want, isn’t it? To see ourselves reflected back at us from the stage, to hear our hopes and dreams and fears made real – to be gotten. Luckily, this show does fine work in that regard.
“The Velocity of Autumn,” Hubbard Hall, 25 East Main Street, Cambridge; February 23 – March 11; $30-$15; Runtime: 90 minutes; (518) 677-2495;