2nd Story’s 4000 Miles is funny, beautiful and touching 

show-4000-milesI’m known for complaining about the lack of women playwrights whose work gets produced. One reason artistic directors are reluctant to produce women is because they are telling a “female” story, whereas Death of a Salesman is a “human” story. Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles is not the stereotypical “female” story. This funny, beautiful and touching play explores the distance between youth and old age.

Arriving in the dark of night, grandson Leo, played forcefully — sometimes too forcefully — by Brendan Macera, shows up at Grandmother Vera’s apartment in Manhattan. The opening scene is filled with laughs as Vera attempts to speak without her dentures. Then, what is meant to be a one-day respite turns into a month, where Leo begins to figure out where he fits in to the world. He has just completed a 4000-mile bike trip from Seattle to the East Coast that was filled with tragedy.

Vera, played with comedic and physical perfection by Paula Faber, is an old leftie, with a picture of Marx hanging on her apartment wall. Trevor Elliot’s set design brings her apartment into a specific time period, frozen in the past.

Playwright Amy Herzog allows us to glimpse a relationship between youth and old age, often thought of as an unlikely one. Yet, as grandmother learns about grandson, Leo, in turn, begins to appreciate his grandmother as a person and a woman. In a moment of stoned silliness, she shares past sexual stories with Leo that make him blush.

The only other characters in the play are Bec, Leo’s girlfriend, and Amanda, an Asian-American young woman Leo brings back to the apartment one night. Alicia Dixon, appearing on stage for the first time, brings an innocent comedy to her character, stealing her tiny scene. Bec, played by 2nd Story regular Valerie Westgate is strong and solid. She only appears twice, but her presence allows Leo to move forward with this life.

One of the best scenes in the play is when Leo tells Vera about his tragic bike trip. The scene is not lit well, but very poignant. My only beef is that the music, used to cover the very long and seemingly unnecessary transitions between scenes, seemed too multi-generational and disparate, almost jarring.

Rhode Island actor and director Vince Petronio makes his directorial debut at 2nd Story.

This play is a must see.

4000 Miles runs through March 29.  Thu, Fri, and Sat at 7:30pm, Sun at 2:30pm; 401.247.4200 for tickets or 2ndstorytheatre.com

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