BWW Reviews: 4000 MILES Is Funny and Poignant, Just Like Life, at Artists Rep
Life is a journey: sometimes a long one, sometimes a short one; sometimes you are firmly in the driver's seat, and sometimes you are just along for the ride. In 4000 MILES, a 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist by Amy Herzog, Artists Repertory Theatre explores the journeys we take -- both physical and emotional -- throughout our lives, and what happens when we get to the end of them.
4000 MILES focuses on the relationship between Leo Joseph-Connell (played by Joshua J. Weinstein), a lost twentysomething experiencing Millennial Malaise, and his grandmother Vera Joseph (Vana O'Brien), a very left-leaning progressive whose character is based on Herzog's own grandmother. The play opens with Leo showing up unannounced at Vera's door at 3 am after having biked his way from Seattle. He stays for the next few weeks.
The play is about family, and all of the love and frustration it entails. Leo is self-absorbed and mostly annoying, spending his time rock climbing, gardening in a community garden, and reading leftist political books. Vera, on the other hand, is a fascinating woman with a rich past who likely feels (though never says) that her grandson is a perfect example of youth being wasted on the young. In each other they find a quiet companionship, and Leo is able to finally deal with what happened on his trip and the realization that eventually we all have to grow up.
4000 MILES is mostly about Leo -- his fractured life and relationships. He is the one who took the physical 4000 mile journey and, over the course of the play, he takes an emotional journey as well. But, Leo is a self-obsessed twentysomething and, frankly, they are boring. This production belongs to Vera, who though hard of hearing and unsteady on her feet is still plenty feisty. She loves Leo, with the combination of irritation and worry you can imagine a grandmother might feel watching her grandson flail about aimlessly. In Vana O'Brien's performance, we see a woman who has seen it all, but is still surprised with her own ability to be surprised by life. An excellent performance is also given by Danielle Ma, who plays a would-be one-night stand who Leo brings home one night.
This play is funny, but not really a comedy, and it's dramatic, but not really a drama. Mainly it's just about life, and it's funny and dramatic the same way that life is (if only life were so well-written). It also answers some of life's biggest questions -- like how to fold bicycle shorts.
4000 MILES runs through May 24. For tickets, visit https://www.artistsrep.org.