After only 16 regular performances and 22 previews, Eric Coble’s The Velocity of Autumn hightailed its way out of the Booth Theatre on Sunday, taking with it Estelle Parsons' luminous performance. The first casualty of the Tony Awards nominations (the production received only one nomination: for Parsons as Best Actress), Coble’s 90-minute intermissionless two-hander features a spirited face-off between an elderly mother (Parsons) and her estranged gay son (the always-splendid Stephen Spinella). After 45 years in her Park Slope brownstone, Mom refuses to be put in a nursing home; instead, she plans to blow up the entire building (and herself) if her kids won’t leave her alone; liquor bottles full of photography developing fluid clutter set designer Eugene Lee’s smart set.

What could have been an explosive flip-side to Marsha Norman’s suicidal masterpiece ‘night, Mother becomes a minor, diverting fizzle, lacking in emotional intensity. Towards its end, Velocity speeds off the tracks with a series of forced reversals, but Parsons nearly salvages the wreckage with a tour de force that gracefully examines the cruelty of aging. At 86, Parson’s delivers one of the most heartbreaking and memorable performances of the entire season. Here’s to her speedy return to Broadway, ideally in a more desirable vehicle.

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