Review: 4000 Miles
I expect you'll be thinking about this play, as I have, for days after you've seen it.by Bill Gale, RI Public Radio
2nd Story Theatre in Warren has always liked to do off-beat plays and its current work, “4000 miles,” is no exception. A little loopy, a little lacking in plot, but that it’s also one of those works you’ll think about days after you see it.
It was, of course, the poet Robert Frost who wrote that “Home is the place where . . . they have to take you in.” Well, “4000 Miles” is something of a recurrence of that idea. It presents us with a 21-year-old named Leo who arrives, at 3 am, no less, complete with bike and a couple of bags at his 91 year old grandmother’s apartment in downtown Manhattan.
Her name is Vera, and she is quite happy, more or less, to take the kid in, put up with his shenanigans, support him both financially and emotionally, and, in the end, actually get something out of all the chaos, all the fighting, and all the, eventual, loving.
Playwright Amy Herzog has said that “4000 Miles” is taken largely from her own family. Her grandmother was a sparkler back in the day, a member of the communist party, a great believer in ideas put forth in its 1930s and ’40s heyday. The grandson is taken partly from a cousin and partly from Herzog’s own travails in a post-college cross country bike ride.
So perhaps that family melange is the reason for this play being confusing, complicated, funny, lop-sided, loosely plotted , filled with conflict, filled with love, and generally something where your not sure what’s going on but you do want to hang around and see how it’ll all turnout.
Leo’s visit for a couple of days turns out to last a month. He and Grandma have some swell times together sitting on a couch, for instance, giggling with the aid of a little pot. Other times he’s shouting at her, she’s pretty darn fed up with him. Without giving away too much, Vera is suffering the trauma of the very old. Words and names that can’t be remembered, the knowledge that few friends remain, the difficulty of what used to be simple chores.
On the other end of the line, Leo is a cocksure kid not yet finding out that he doesn’t really know it all.
In the end, there’s a tale of startling finality for Leo that he shares with Vera. It’s what makes “4000 Miles” a worthwhile piece of theater. The real real is there.
2nd Story actor Vince Petronio has made his directing debut with this piece and he’s brought a quick, sharp pace to the play.
Another 2nd Story regular, Paula Faber makes Vera a very chirpy 91-year-old giving you a real idea of what a whirlwind she must have been back in the day when she ran through two husbands, not to mention a gentleman suitor.
Brendan Macera gives full cantankerousness to Leo. He’s loud, all-knowing and pushy, until he begins to face the real world, at least.
Both Valerie Westgate and Alicia Dixon give competent performances as sometime girlfriends of Leo’s.
“4000 Miles” ends abruptly. Just like this review. You’ll sit there and wonder, as I did, “What happened?” But I expect you’ll be thinking about this play, as I have, for days after you’ve seen it.