4000 Miles

  • Our critic's rating:
    April 1, 2012
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall

    (Review by Tulis McCall)

    Vera Joseph (Mary Louise Wilson) is a woman in her 90’s living in a walk-up apartment somewhere near Chelsea. Her balance is off, she can’t hear so well, she forgets her words, and at 3:00 in the morning, when the doorbell rings and she answers it, she has also forgotten her teeth.

    Yipes! An older imperfect female character on a stage - what will they think of next?

    What Vera has not forgotten is her grandson, Leo (Gabriel Ebert) who is the source of the ringing buzzer, standing in her doorway, fresh from a cross-country bike-ride and smelling like a load of dirty laundry. No she has not forgotten him.

    “Are you high?” she asks.

    No, it turns out, he is not. Leo has landed on Vera’s doorstep carrying the detritus of a bike trip begun in partnership and finished solo as well as the burdens of a young man at a crossroad. When his biking partner Micah died, all Leo could do was complete what they had started. Now that he has, the bottom has more or less dropped out from under his tires.

    Vera has her own liabilities aside from the aforementioned. The chief one is that she is nearing the end of the race, and as she watches comrades around her making their departures, she wonders about her own. Life is a pain in the ass. Two husbands who didn’t satisfy her, one unnamed lover who did. A lifetime of politics and progressive thought. Vera’s eye still wanders the skyline looking for something to catch her eye.

    So there we are folks – the up and coming bunking in with the nearly departing. Not that either of them wants to embrace the future. Not right this minute. No thanks. They would rather hop off the stagecoach for a bit set up camp.

    For the moment, Leo has an old love, Bec (Zoë Winters) to deal with. They are volatile and honest and impossible together. Amanda (Greta Lee) crosses his path one brief night and leaves a trail that almost glows in the dark. Vera views these young women with slight interest. They are passers through. What she does want to know about is how Leo will straighten out his relationship with his mother Jane and his adopted sister Lilly. It’s not that Vera likes Jane very much, but that family thing bears some attention. Not having children of her own is about the only regret that Vera can call to mind.

    This interlude is not something they planned. This is not an episode of Grandma Knows Best. They are not even related by blood. Leo is Vera’s stepdaughter’s son. But that’s good enough reason to join forces. These, however, are not touchy feely people. They bump up against one another and yelp. They step on each other’s toes. They fall back and regroup. They listen. They judge. They divulge. They withhold. They pounce. They drift. They dream. They are, quite simply, themselves. And THAT is way more than adequate. It is delicious.

    Daniel Aukin has staged this play almost like a ballet on this beautiful set by Lauren Halpern. Even entrances and exits get your attention. Japhy Weideman’s lights are the perfect, perfect compliment to a relationship that unfolds in the dim light of a Manhattan apartment.

    Amy Herzog has given us a gift, and this production team has made is shine like a beacon in a fog. Wilson and Ebert create a pas de deux that is equal parts blunt and rough; tender and surprising; vulnerable and thoughtless; inconsistent and insensitive. Greta Lee and Zoë Winters add the exact amount of “the world out there” that Vera and Leo need to keep them connected by that invisible thread that bonds all such extraordinary duos.

    What a splendid adventure. What a complete pleasure. Cheers all around.

    "Truthful and touching and fine."
    Charles Isherwood for New York Times

    "Unshowy but deeply affecting performances."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "A quiet triumph."
    Erik Haagensen for Back Stage

    "The play has an agreeably warm heart."
    Robert Feldberg for The Record

    "A gentle and beautiful play that is gently and beautifully performed."
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Post - Back Stage - The Record - Newsroom Jersey