2nd Story’s 4,000 Miles a sweet slice of life
Herzog has managed to capture the humanness that connects us all.by Channing Gray, Providence Journal
Not much happens in Amy Herzog’s sweet and endearing “4000 Miles,” now playing downstairs at 2nd Story Theatre. There are no overt messages, no train wrecks, save for the death of a cranky neighbor we never get to meet. But in her own understated way, Herzog has managed to capture the humanness that connects us all.
This fleeting one-act play opens with Leo, a free spirit in his early 20’s, showing up at his 91-year-old grandmother’s Manhattan apartment at 3 in the morning, after a grueling cross-country bike trip. He’s just looking for a place to crash for a while and take stock of his life.
And he has found no better teacher, no better companion than Vera, a feisty leftist with a portrait of Karl Marx on her living room wall. Vera, brought to life in a marvelous portrayal by Paula Faber, can be difficult, but she’s also wise and accepting, which allows Leo the space he needs to heal after after a tragic occurrence on his bike trek from Seattle to New York.
With a touch of humor and a dose of wisdom, Herzog has managed to bridge the generation gap, which kind of surprised me, because the only other play of hers I know is “After the Revolution,” which also deals with a crisis in a family of Marxists, but is awfully heavy-handed.
But here, Herzog dispenses with hammering home lessons, and just lets us enjoy hanging out with a young man struggling to find himself and a grandmother who shows him nothing but understanding and love.
When Leo wakes after that first night at Vera’s, he finds she has gone through his luggage and taken out a box of condoms, saying she’s glad to see he has them but is surprised they’re not open.
Later, we catch Vera and Leo hanging out on the sofa smoking pot. Did my parents ever love one another, Leo asks? Which ones were they? asks Vera with a giggle.
Brendan Macera as Leo manages to find that winning mix of coolness and uncertainty, haunted by the fact that his best friend and biking partner met with a horrible accident somewhere in the flat wheat fields of Kansas. But really, the show belongs to Faber, who’s got that shuffle you might expect from a 90-year-old, and that independent streak from someone who’s clearly a survivor.
When Leo finally unburdens himself about what happened to his best friend Micah, he’s sitting in the dark with Vera. It’s a horrible tale, to which she replies that she’s not wearing her hearing aid and caught only part of his story.
Valerie Westgate appears now and then as Bec, the girlfriend Leo just can’t seem to connect with. And Alicia Dixon has a small role as the slutty Chinese chick Leo brings home for a disastrous evening.
Again, there’s nothing particularly earth-shattering about “4000 Miles.” It’s just a lovely look at the things that connect us all.