Generations share hope in ‘4000 Miles’
By Jim Lowe
Staff Writer | March 06,2013
When Leo arrives at his grandmother’s Greenwich Village apartment at 3 a.m., toting a fully laden bicycle, she’s not quite sure what to do with him. That night turns into days — then weeks — in Amy Herzog’s intimate play, “4000 Miles.” They argue, laugh and find comfort in each other’s company, discovering that they may have more in common than they realized.
Leo also has a secret that he hasn’t been able to tell anyone, not even his parents.
“What’s fantastic is watching the two of them really get something out of one another and really grow together,” said
Michael Dove, who is directing Vermont Stage Company’s production, running March 13-31 at Burlington’s FlynnSpace.
“In stories like this we find that we have much more in common with each other than we thought,” he said.
“4000 Miles” premiered at New York’s Lincoln Center in 2011 to rave reviews.
New York Times critic Charles Isherwood wrote, “Plays as truthful and touching and fine as Amy Herzog’s ‘4000 Miles’ come along once or maybe twice a season, if we’re lucky.”
“This is only the second or third production of this play ever produced (anywhere), and we got the rights to do it right here in Burlington,” said Cristina Alicea, Vermont Stage’s artistic director.
After a summerlong cross-country bike trip, Leo shows up exhausted and looking for a place to stay. Vera, the widow of a once-celebrated radical, lives a lonely life, as most of her friends have died, and suffers the physical afflictions of her 91 years.
But it is Leo who is fragile, at least emotionally. Not only is he reeling from the tragedy that occurred on his trip, but his girlfriend, Bec, announces that she thinks they should part ways. In short, he is lost.
“It was one of those plays I could hear and see almost instantly,” said Dove, who is artistic director of Forum
Theatre in Washington, D.C. “It’s not just a play about her grandson or his grandmother, but, in fact, a lot of that slips away and they actually become very close friends.”
It’s Herzog’s authentic characters that give the play its power.
“They all feel so fleshed out that reading this play I can connect to all four,” Dove said. “I can see things in all four of them that I find relatable as opposed to just one character that you’re following.”
And that’s just what Dove is focusing on with Vermont Stage’s cast — New York City-based actors Waltrudis Buck and Katie Peters, and local actors Willy McKay and Andrea Underhill (making her Vermont Stage debut).
“It’s really in-depth character work and working on relationships,” Dove said. “It seems essentially easy on the surface of this play, but when you dig into these scenes, it’s incredible how Herzog weaves one moment into another.”
Vermont Stage Company presents Amy Herzog’s “4000 Miles” March 13-31 at the Flynn Center’s FlynnSpace, 153 Main St. in Burlington. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $32.50, $27 for Wednesdays and matinees; call 86-FLYNN (863-5966), or go online to www.flynntix.org. For information, call 862-1497 or visit www.vtstage.org.