Ocala Civic Theatre’s new show is a lively two-person play with enough family drama for the whole clan.
As we prepare for the upcoming holiday season, Ocala Civic Theatre (OCT) is serving up a heaping helping of family drama in the warm, witty dramatic comedy “The Velocity of Autumn,” live on stage Nov. 9-26.
The play is set in Alexandra’s beloved Brooklyn brownstone. It’s been her home for decades, and it’s where she and her late husband raised their three children. At age 80, the artist is content to curl up in her armchair with her cozy sweater, colorful afghan and a Lawrence Welk record or a good mystery novel. Her favorite tree, resplendent through the second-story windows, is her pride and joy. In fact, she admits “the tree is what gets [her] out of bed most mornings.” But now, with her kids threatening to move her to a retirement facility, her longtime home isn’t just her castle; it’s become a fortress.
By the time her youngest child, Chris, flies in from New Mexico and arrives on the scene, Alexandra has barricaded the door and her other kids are threatening to call the cops. Forging an alliance with Chris, who’s been gone for 20 years, is the only chance she sees to preserve her “need to be free.” But this mom is mad as hell, and she knows how to concoct a Molotov cocktail!
Guest Director Eb Madson–who acts, directs and designs all over the country–describes his Ocala debut as the perfect comedy-drama to enjoy with loved ones.
“If people come here during the Thanksgiving season, they’ll see a lot of parallels of the types of conversations families have,” Madson said. “A lot of people will come to this show and really connect with it. One of the first things I loved is the writer really captures family bickering very well,” he said with a chuckle. “And it made me think of holidays and anytime you have family come together and friction happens and people start going at each other. I think people will come here and it will resonate with them a lot in that respect.”
Madson remembers living in New York City when the show’s Broadway run earned actor Estelle Parsons her fifth Tony award nomination at age 86.
“After I read the script, I knew it was something I really wanted to do,” he said. “The show has so much heart and I think it will resonate with a lot of people.”
Madson described Ocala as “really hospitable” and noted that “Velocity” is “not your typical community theater.”
“It’s almost like it’s a professional theater for a community, which is amazing,” he said. “The talent I have for this show is fantastic. Both Danuta and Scott are amazing to work with, and I love seeing them find these characters and helping them find the different nuances for each of them, crafting the bits and parts of the show. It’s been an honor to be here.”
Consummate OCT veteran Danuta Jacob, an artist herself, gives the performance of a lifetime as the bohemian Alexandra. Fierce, defeated, yet determined all at once, she eloquently delivers line after line of poetic dialogue punctuated with hilarious one-liners. She poignantly portrays the inevitable, yet lamentable, betrayal of aging, taking humorous jabs at her body’s failures. Her mother-and-son chemistry with Scott Fitzgerald, who plays Chris, remains authentic as the prodigal and the parent progress from contentious to reminiscent to affectionate.
Fitzgerald, returning to OCT after playing Anthony Reilly in “Outside Mullingar” earlier this year, plays a relatable Chris with quick-witted humor. He’s every exasperated 40- or 50-something son or daughter caught in the middle of a no-win situation when the family doesn’t agree on where mom should live out her golden years.
As the standoff on stage escalates, emotions rise and so does the frequency of calls from the siblings stationed outside. Every classic rock fan will appreciate Chris’ iconic – and so apropos – ringtone, a clever creative element added by Alexa Hall, an experienced OCT sound board operator, in her first show as sound designer alongside OCT Resident Sound Designer Jazmine Whipple.
“The Velocity of Autumn” is live on stage Nov. 9-26 at Ocala Civic Theatre, 4337 E. Silver Springs Blvd. For tickets and more information, visit ocalacivictheatre.com or call (352) 236-2274.