BWW Reviews: Black Lab Theatre's 4000 MILES is Tender and Touching

BWW Reviews: Black Lab Theatre's 4000 MILES is Tender and Touching
Jordan Jaffe as Leo Joseph-Connell & Waltrudis Buck
as Vera Joseph.

No matter what Jordan Jaffe programs for his Black Lab Theatre to produce, the end results always seem to be at the very least excellent. Currently producing Amy Herzog's 4000 MILES, which is ultimately an intimate portrait of a woman and her grandson, the company is bringing tender and touching life to a celebrated Off-Broadway play for Houston audiences to enjoy.

With all the hushed tones of an indie film, Amy Herzog's 4000 MILES, which was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, begins with Leo Joseph-Connell, a neo-Hippie, arriving at his grandmother's Greenwich Village apartment at 3:00 in the morning. At first his stay is to be for a couple of nights, but he ends up staying for a few weeks. Over the course of his stay, nothing of great significance happens. Amy Herzog doesn't give her audiences the heighted reality we typically expect from an on-stage drama; instead, she creates a beautiful depiction of familial bonds and one man's journey from being lost and broken to finding some clarity.

Direction by Justin Doran makes the drama of the show come to life with affective poignancy. The characters are realistic and fully realized, allowing them to pepper in Amy Herzog's comedic breaks with utter sincerity and honesty. Justin Doran's cast doesn't create characters for the production, they embody living, breathing human beings that are exact duplicates of people we know or characters that are so grounded in reality that we believe they could actually exist in our own world.

Jordan Jaffe's portrayal of Leo Joseph-Connell seems so simplistic. He imbues the character with such an understated persona that it truly feels like the audience is simply seeing Leo on the stage, not Jordan play Leo. At no time in the performance does Leo feel constructed; conversely, he feels like an authentic person. Whether he is loudly criticizing society's rules for kissing or laying his soul bare in the climatic monologue about the tragedy he encountered on his cross-country bike ride, Jordan Jaffe's Leo is a genuine sketch of a human in emotional recovery.

Waltrudis Buck skillfully brings Leo's grandmother, Vera Joseph, to life. With Vera, she crafts a character that is equal parts fascinating, loveable, and eccentric. A devout communist, she is constantly annoyed by how her views on politics clash with those of her neighbor across the hall. Regardless of their differences, we come to see how deeply loyal she is to her friends and her family. This is made especially apparent when she discusses how she allowed her first husband's marital indiscretions to not destroy their relationship. Waltrudis Buck wows audiences with Vera's rigid strength, slipping cognitive abilities, and gorgeous heart.

BWW Reviews: Black Lab Theatre's 4000 MILES is Tender and Touching
Jordan Jaffe as Leo Joseph-Connell & Shannon Nicole
Hill as Bec.

Bec, played by Shannon Nicole Hill, is Leo's girlfriend. Every ounce of her personhood is tinged with sadness, which may be spurned by her desire to break up with Leo. Shannon Nicole Hill plays Bec softly, and her melancholy affects the audience and tugs on our heartstrings.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Andrea Huang creates a brashly self-centered and spoiled young woman with Amanda. Leo brings her back to the apartment in hopes of losing himself in the act of casual sex; yet, things don't go as planned.

Jesse Gustin's Scenic Design creates a cozy enough living room. It doesn't truly feel like New York City, but it fills the space well and is laid out in such a way that movement in the space is perfectly natural and believable. Costume Design by Macy Lyne is perfectly suited to each character, heightening the play's realism. Dustin Tannahill's Lighting Design uses organic washes of ambers to create soft, yet realistic lighting for a majority of the performance. His dim, blue wash for light steaming in the living room window creates a nice effect for the play's climatic moments.

Black Lab Theater's production of 4000 MILES is a pleasant and truly lovely surprise. Walking into the theater, I didn't know what to expect. As the play unfolded before me, I was worried that it at times felt like it was going nowhere. However, by the end of the third scene, I no longer cared where the story went. I found myself connected to the people on stage. I felt I knew them, and I was concerned about their wellbeing. Amy Herzog's 4000 MILES is an exceedingly unique experience for theatergoers, but it pays off well.

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.

4000 MILES, produced by Black Lab Theatre, runs at the Frenetic Theater, 5102 navigation Boulevard, Houston, 77011 now through March 16, 2014. Performances are Thursdays, Friday, and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Monday, March 3 at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday March 9 and 16 at 3:00 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.blacklabtheatre.com or call (713) 515-4028.

Photos by Pin Lim. Courtesy of Black Lab Theatre.

high res photos

BWW Reviews: Black Lab Theatre's 4000 MILES is Tender and Touching
Jordan Jaffe as Leo Joseph-Connell & Waltrudis Buck as Vera Joseph.

BWW Reviews: Black Lab Theatre's 4000 MILES is Tender and Touching
Waltrudis Buck as Vera Joseph & Jordan Jaffe as Leo Joseph-Connell.

BWW Reviews: Black Lab Theatre's 4000 MILES is Tender and Touching
Jordan Jaffe as Leo Joseph-Connell & Waltrudis Buck as Vera Joseph.

BWW Reviews: Black Lab Theatre's 4000 MILES is Tender and Touching
Jordan Jaffe as Leo Joseph-Connell & Shannon Nicole Hill as Bec.

BWW Reviews: Black Lab Theatre's 4000 MILES is Tender and Touching
Waltrudis Buck as Vera Joseph & Jordan Jaffe as Leo Joseph-Connell.

BWW Reviews: Black Lab Theatre's 4000 MILES is Tender and Touching
Andrea Huang as Amanda & Jordan Jaffe as Leo Joseph-Connell.

BWW Reviews: Black Lab Theatre's 4000 MILES is Tender and Touching
Waltrudis Buck as Vera Joseph.

high res photos

More Houston!
Go to the Homepage


Comment & Share


About Author

Subscribe to Author Alerts
 
🔀HOUSTON SHOWS
Next to Normal in HoustonNext to Normal
(Runs 8/8 - 9/6)
Grease in HoustonGrease
(Runs 8/29 - 9/21)
Spring Awakening in HoustonSpring Awakening
(Runs 9/5 - 9/28)
Always a Bridesmaid by Jones, Hope, and Wooten
(Runs 9/12 - 10/11)
Evil Dead The Musical in HoustonEvil Dead The Musical
(Runs 10/17 - 11/9)
Dirty Dancing in HoustonDirty Dancing
(Runs 11/18 - 11/23)
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
(Runs 11/13 - 12/21)

View All | Add Show | Auditions

Message Board

BWW BLOGS