2nd Story’s 4000 Miles an Engaging Journey
4000 Miles is an interesting and fascinating character study.by Don Fowler, Cranston Herald
Amy Herzog’s Obie-winning one-act play is an engaging look at two characters from different generations who come together for a month of their lives, and both become richer for the experience.
There’s not much of a plot to the play, but a lot goes on as 91-year-old leftist Vera provides shelter, shoulder and an ear for her unsettled grandson, Leo.
Leo (Brendan Macera) drops in unexpectedly on Vera after cycling from the West Coast to her New York City apartment, where his riding partner and friend was tragically killed. Leo is dealing with his friend’s death, his family back in the Midwest, his estranged girlfriend and his uncertain future.
Vera (Paula Faber) is dealing with her past, her neighbor and most of the problems people face in old age: hearing loss, forgetfulness, false teeth, loneliness and searching for that escapable world.
No woman really wants to be told that she looked and acted like a 91-year-old, but Faber’s body language and searching for familiar words that had escaped her portrayed her tremendous talents.
Over the course of Leo’s one-month visit they squabble, disagree on minor and major issues, and slowly come to appreciate each other.
Scheduling conflicts forced me to see the play in previews, and I was amazed at how polished and smooth the production was on its second night. (Previews cost only $10, and sold out quickly).
Credit goes to Vince Petronio, a fine actor who is directing his first play at 2nd Story. Petronio follows in tradition of other great local actors who have made great directors: Ed Shea, Tony Estrella, Fred Sullivan Jr. and Mark Peckham come to mind).
There are a number of short scenes over the 85-minute play, with related songs playing softly in the background as stage manager Rachel Nadeau makes set adjustments. Petronio said he spent a month finding just the right songs to go with the play.
In addition to the music, the production had an acute attention to detail, simple things like the furniture, the landline phone, Yellow Pages and particularly the way Faber shuffled off stage during scene changes, always in character.
Valerie Westgate and Alicia Dixon are both good in minor roles as Leo’s former girlfriend and pick-up girl.
Reading a bit about Herzog in Eileen Warburton’s always-helpful essay, we learn that much of the play leans toward the autobiographical, with Vera’s character based on her own grandmother and a bit of Herzog in Leo.
While “4,000 Miles” is short of being a powerful drama, it is an interesting and fascinating character study, one that concentrates on an engaging relationship between two people who live in different worlds.