It’s the end of the road for 20-something slacker Leo when he arrives at his grandmother’s New York apartment at 3 in the morning.
Or so you might think.
His extreme road trip results in some serious lessons about home and family in Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles, as Leo (Teddy Spencer) and his grandma Vera (Dee Maaske) try to figure out how to move forward with their lives. At moments funny, slightly vulgar and heart-wrenching, we learn that Leo’s been through a great deal, including the death of his traveling companion and best friend. We also learn that the family’s dynamics are more than a bit dysfunctional, and that the new, laid-back, slightly left politics of the millennial generation aren’t up to the ideological snuff of 20th-century Reds—although they do allow for some bonding over bohemian sexual mores and controlled substances.
There’s a gleeful willingness to blend comedy with drama in 4000 Miles that results in a very contemporary realism. Elizabeth Holzman is quite good as Leo’s estranged girlfriend, and she has particular chemistry with Maaske, giving the audience a good picture of the difference a couple of generations has made in women’s attitudes toward life and love.
But the real scene-stealing supporting performance comes from Sylvia Kwan as Amanda, a young woman Leo brings home after a night on the town. Her manic portrayal of a party girl with big ambitions is hilarious, but it also highlights how directionless Leo has become.
While the acting and production values are nothing short of stellar—and this play has got plenty of both multigenerational conflict and bonding, thanks to the chemistry between Spencer and Maaske—the play itself is vaguely dissatisfying. It is perhaps an intentional ambiguity meant to mimic the reality of life—this is a very realistic show—but it still left a sense that the play’s characters are “in the middle,” with only partial resolutions to the conflicts raised during the course of the show.
4000 Miles is a thoughtful play, bound to stir up conversations about intergenerational relationships and the meaning of life. It’s obviously aimed at a more mature audience, but one that can remember the frustrations and idealism of youth.