The play begins late one night at 3am when Vera's grandson Leo arrives on her West Village apartment doorstep. He has just ended a trek across the country on his bike, hence the title of the play, and after being turned away by his girlfriend, needs a place to stay. He doesn't know how long he will stay, maybe just a day or two, but Vera takes him in and once Leo sees just how alone his grandmother is and since he has no immediate plans, he decides to stay for awhile. Over the course of the next 100 minutes, we see how these two people, even though they are seventy years apart in age, need each other to survive and how real love and compassion don't need to be overtly stated out loud.
|Mary Louise Wilson|
|Gabriel Ebert and Mary Louise Wilson|
Also in the cast are Zoe Winters as Leo's girlfriend and Greta Lee as a student he picks up one night and brings back to the apartment. Both are small roles but serve a purpose in the events of the play. Winters has two key moments in the play and it is nice to see how she reacts to the changes she sees in Leo over the course of her visits to Vera's apartment. Lee gets some great comic moments to play and delivers them effortlessly.
This play with this cast had a previous limited run last Summer before Lincoln Center remounted it uptown at its Mitzi Newhouse Theatre. Daniel Aukin directs this production with a light touch, allowing the words and performances to shine through. The set design by Lauren Helpern evokes a lovely multi room Manhattan apartment with all of the items a 90 year old person would have accumulated over the years. I especially liked the use of two filing cabinets as end tables. Japhy Weideman's lighting design is truly magical. The effect Weideman creates for various times of the day from early morning to late night is stunning on the Newhouse stage. And that scene I mentioned before, where Leo tells Vera the specific details of his recent tragedy, are lit in shadows that provide an intimate, almost dreamlike and surreal moment to really make the scene pop. Like Other Desert Cities when it was at the Mitzi Newhouse last year, with 4,000 Miles you feel like you are sitting on a couch in Vera's apartment as the events unfold before you. I truly love how intimate the Newhouse stage is.
Now for a one act play there is a lot that goes on in 4,000 Miles including some things that aren't fully fleshed out. I'm not sure if that was Herzog's intention or not as not everything has to be resolved or serve a purpose to the play's overall plot. There is much talk about Vera's being a communist that provides some humor and helps flesh out her back story but I didn't quite get if we were to somehow make a connection with Vera's political past and Leo's current views on life. Also, there is some discussion around Leo's relationship with his sister that is mentioned in a scene between Leo and Vera and then we see Leo skyping with his sister, but we never really know exactly what to make of that relationship. The play also has a somewhat mellow ending, focusing more on the simple life of Vera's next door neighbor that while it might somehow be meant to relate back to Vera and Leo it didn't quite connect with me. But still, with Mary Louise Wilson's performance I highly recommend 4,000 Miles.
Official Show Site
An interview with Wilson and Ebert from last Summer's run of the play: