By Roz Friedman
I was first delighted with Amy Herzog's 4000 Miles in 2011 at the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre at Lincoln Center. After seeing Long Wharf's present production, I can say without reservation, it stands the test of time. Eric Ting has directed this lovely, funny play that tugs at the heart strings with a quiet touch befitting the story. Costumed well by Ilona Somogyi, the cast, with most of the burden falling on Micah Stock as Leo and Zoaunne LeRoy as Vera, and decorated by two young women, Leah Karpel, sincere as Bec, and Teresa Avia Lim, spunky as Amanda/Lily, is excellent. They take us on a generational journey, which is 90 minutes without intermission and an eternity.
We first meet Leo, 21, who arrives at his widowed grandmother's Greenwich Village apartment at 3am unannounced. (Set- Frank J. Alberino, Lighting- Matt Frey) Feisty Vera, the 90 year old lady in question, is understandably surprised but happy to see him. It seems he's been on the road with his bike after leaving Seattle and the family has been very worried about him. He hasn't called or written since his friend, Micah, who was with him, was killed. (This name is confusing, because the actor playing Leo is named Micah, too.) In short time, Leo and Vera, prickly and at odds, begin to change each other. He is only going to stay overnight, but remains. She cleans him up, as he tries to instill some confidence in her, suggesting that she change the name to hers on the door.
Vera talks about her first marriage to a cheating husband, and the love she had for her second husband, who shared her love for Communism. Leo is grieving, both for the loss of his girlfriend, Bec, who has decided to go to college, and Micah. Late one night, surrounded by total darkness, he finally tells Vera the details of the terrible and bizarre accident that killed his best friend. Some of my colleagues have questioned this choice; I found it effective. When you cannot see, it makes you listen very carefully and imagine what happened.
In the end, Leo helps Ginny, Vera's across the hall neighbor, and writes a beautiful speech for her funeral. Things are hopeful for Leo, who will visit his family and start a new job in Colorado. Vera, on the other hand, is on her own, a survivor to the end.
This review first aired on WMNR 88.1 FM FINE ARTS PUBLIC RADIO