Keeping up with our friends and family members nowadays tends to happen via social media. It is likely you have seen others with their phone devices glued to their hands, staring and swiping endlessly on a screen as they “connect” with others and show sympathy as they “like” pictures, life events, and the statuses of their loved ones. Even if social media is the innovative tool society uses to bond and connect, the play 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog shares with audiences a more effective way to connect with each other.
4000 Miles, directed by Mathew Wright, introduces Leo Joseph-Connel, a 21-year-old without a cellphone, a job, or a place to stay. Leo (Adam Standley) has just finished a cross-country bicycle trip. His deep love for the outdoors inspired him to begin the journey with his best friend Micah, departing from Seattle and heading east, where he ends up by himself in New York City at the door of his grandmother, Vera (Susan Corzatte).
Surprised to see him in an evidently disturbed state, Vera inquires about Leo’s trip and his experiences along the way. Leo confesses to finding adventure, meeting peculiar people, connecting with nature, and experiencing the tragedy of Micah’s death due to an accident that occurred during their trip. At first, one may not know what to think of Leo. He is seemingly anxious, worried, and in emotional distress as he engages in conversation with Vera. As the story unfolds we learn that Leo’s girlfriend Bec (Adria LaMorticella) does not want to see him, his mother is upset with him, he has to deal with his friends’ and relatives’ criticism for continuing the bike trip despite Micah’s death, and he feels guilty for his sister’s decision to attend therapy.
That may sound like a lot to handle. Fortunately, Vera, a lively and outspoken 91-year-old, unintentionally becomes Leo’s support system and partner in crime. Unlike most grandmothers out there, Vera is arguably one of the coolest grandmas “alive.” She is strong, independent, kind, and quite open-minded, contrary to Leo’s criticism. She is comfortable conversing about a wide variety of topics with her grandson, from death and sexuality, to money, drugs, and happiness.
After Bec breaks up with Leo, he attempts to connect romantically with another girl, Amanda (Sara Porkalob), in an encounter that is both hilarious and revealing as Leo expresses his feelings toward her. Porkalob’s performance is particularly laudable for her voice projection, tone, and humorous yet confident performance. Porkalob is more than likely to ignite laughter in the audience. Through their performances, the actors engage with each other as they connect emotionally with the material in each relationship.
The lighting and stage design bring to life the atmosphere in which this story unravels. The lighting enhances and adds emphasis to key scenes during the play. An example of this is a touching scene in which we can only observe Leo and Vera’s silhouettes due to the dim illumination. This adds a special quality to the moment in which audiences witness Vera comforting Leo after he explains in detail the death of his friend Micah. As the play develops we learn that this is not Vera and Leo’s story alone. It is an interconnected story of relationships that ask us to rethink the quality and honesty of our own. Friends, siblings, parents, and grandparents can all benefit from the raw honesty and humor of this well-crafted story of implicit bonds and personal growth.
4000 Miles reminds its audience that life is a journey. The characters share traits and experiences that are in each one of us, and through the production we can analyze, think about, and reassess our own particular journeys in life.
January 22 - February 15