4000 Miles

  • Our critic's rating:
    June 1, 2011

    Review by Tulis McCall

    Get this. Amy Herzog has written a play with a female character over 30 years old. No kidding. Way over 30 years old. Try late 80’s. Hokey Smokes!!!

    There was a wonderful article recently about John Cullum who is still treading the boards at the age of 82. It said how he and Dakin Matthews were remarking that there were no other older people in the current Shakespeare productions at the Delacorte. I think the writer meant “older men” because the dearth of parts for older women in this country is pathetic.

    Excuse me while I climb down from my high horse – but not for long.

    4,000 Miles is an exquisite play. To be more precise, this is an exquisite production. Daniel Aukin has given Amy Herzog the best gift a writer can get: a production that shines.

    Leo (Gabariel Ebert) has just completed a cross-country bike trip and landed in New York on the doorstep of his Grandmother Vera (Mary Louise Wilson). He brings a pile of sadness and struggle into her life on which she pounces, as he knows she will. He has come to her for refuge as well as mentoring. Vera is an old card carrying Communist whose second husband Joe, Leo’s blood grandfather, was a left wing writer. She is as progressive as they come and does not suffer fools lightly. She does, however, have a soft spot for this tall jumble of a young man.

    Over the next few weeks they cross a great deal of territory together – way over 4,000 miles. They clash, they strain, and they listen. Leo has women over to the apartment – Bec (Zoë Winters) a sort of current love, and Amanda (Greta Lee) who is a disarming whack job. Vera reminisces about old relationships. He has an enormous future ahead, and she has a carpet of memories. He is frustrated to be at the beginning and she thinks being at the end is a pain in the ass – just like a lot of her friends.

    Mixed in with this relationship is the story of how he lost he partner, Micah, on the trip east. This is part of the baggage that Leo carries, along with his relationship to his mother (Vera’s step daughter) and his adopted sister.

    These two speak in the cadence of the familiar: a phrase here; a point taken or made there. It is a relationship played out in bits, like a tennis match where one or the other takes a break whenever the mood strikes. Aukin stages the play as if it were a ballet on this intricate and intimate set by Lauren Helpern. The two characters enter and exit as if in a dream. Where they depart is not always the point of their return.

    Round and round they all go until they weave a tapestry that would be incomplete with out any one of the four characters. They are each blunt and rough; tender and surprising; vulnerable and thoughtless; inconsistent and insensitive. And underneath all that is the electricity that holds them together as if they were the remaining crew on a ship headed out in a low hanging fog.

    It was all I could do not to leave my seat and join them.

    (Tulis McCall)

    "Altogether wonderful drama."
    Charles Isherwood for the New York Times

    "Thoughtful small-scale play."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for the New York Daily News

    "This modest, well-observed gem deserves to be a hit."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for the New York Post

    "Shimmers with promise."
    Jeremy Gerard for the Bloomberg

    "More successful as character study than as a fully realized dramatic work."
    Erik Haagensen for Back Stage

    "Melancholy but quietly charming 100-minute piece."
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

    "If it weren't for the pure energy of (Mary Louise) Wilson's performance, this play would be D.O.A."
    Marilyn Stasio for Newsroom Jersey

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