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Broadway Play ‘Velocity of Autumn’ Speeds into Crowded, Competitive Spring

The final pieces of Broadway’s spring puzzle are falling into place as one more play, “The Velocity of Autumn,” accelerates into the Booth Theater to start performances there in April. But the new two-hander starring Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella faces a competitive environment nearly packed to the gills with big-deal musicals and, more directly challenging, a number of star-driven plays.

A new play with little title recognition yet behind it, “Velocity of Autumn” played at Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage earlier this year, earning strong reviews for its two thesps if somewhat less glowing notices for the play itself. While Parsons (“August: Osage County,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It”) and Spinella (“Angels in America”) are two of the theater industry’s most respected stage actors, neither thesp has the box office of, say, Denzel Washington, who will topline the revival of “A Raisin in the Sun” that, like “Velocity,” opens in April as well.

Also vying this spring for the attention of playgoers — generally considered a different, smaller pool of theatergoers than the tourist-heavy crowds that pack the houses at a lot of musical fare — are Bryan Cranston topliner “All the Way,” James Franco and Chris O’Dowd starrer “Of Mice and Men” and Tony Shalhoub outing “Act One,” among others. There’s also one more play angling for real estate this spring, “The Realistic Joneses” starring Toni Collette and Michael C. Hall.

All of which means “Velocity” could use rave reviews and awards attention to turn ticketbuyers’ heads, especially as the spring season heats up with notable tuners including “The Bridges of Madison County,” “Rocky,” “Aladdin,” “If/Then,” Zach Braff topliner “Bullets Over Broadway” and Neil Patrick Harris starrer “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”

Penned by Eric Coble (“Bright Ideas”), “Velocity” centers on a senior citizen (Parsons) who threatens to set off a string of Molotov cocktails if her family forces her out of her Brooklyn brownstone. Spinella plays her estranged son, enlisted by the family to talk her down.

Arena a.d. Molly Smith helmed the same cast at Arena and will direct the Broadway staging, to be produced by Larry Kaye and HOP Theatricals as well as Van Dean and the Broadway Consortium. Prior productions of “Velocity” have played in Boise and Cleveland.

“Velocity of Autumn” begins Broadway previews April 1 ahead of an April 21 opening. The current  tenant at the Booth, “The Glass Menagerie,” is set to shutter Feb. 23.

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