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4000 Miles
Asolo Repertory Theatre


Lois Markle and
Benjamin Williamson

Asolo Rep is presenting Amy Herzog's 4000 Miles as their annual non-repertory production at the Historic Asolo Theater. The production is first rate, with sparkling acting from Lois Markle as Vera Joseph and Benjamin Williamson as her grandson, Leo Joseph-Connell. The thrust of the play is that two mismatched family members come together and are changed for the better as they adapt to, and learn from, one another. Ms. Herzog has received lavish praise and laudatory reviews for this play and I understand why, while at the same time I am somewhat puzzled by the piece. The characters are interestingly drawn but the interactions between them are messy, perhaps intentionally so, as life is rarely neat and tidy. What I miss is a dramatic thrust. Even so, there are some terrific insights into inter-generational relationships.

Williamson's Leo is a 21-year-old neo hippy, a type that my companion for the afternoon assures me does indeed exist in great numbers today. Vera is described in the playwright's biography as 91 years old, but here she seems to be 75 to 80ish, which makes more sense to me. Lois Markle's younger vision of the character is losing hearing, losing the ability to quickly put words together but still quite mobile and able to do for herself. During the coarse of the play, Vera is shown bringing unfolded laundry back as well as bringing in her own groceries. Miss Markle does an extraordinary job with the physicality of the part, showing clear differences in her reactions to Leo when her hearing aid is in vs. when it is not. Benjamin Williamson captures the unassuredness of his character, aimless college drop out, geeky, trying to exist in a non geeky universe. In one scene he talks about rejecting technology that many of his peers cling to for dear life, making an interesting tie in with Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, still in repertory at Asolo Rep. He conveys that Leo is beginning to grow more confident by losing some of the most extreme physical tics. This is a fine performance by a third year Conservatory student. Maxey Whitefield and Lisa Dring round out the cast in thankless supporting roles.

Direction by Tea Alagic, who was a classmate of author Amy Herzog at Yale, is most noticeable in the fine performances. All other technical aspects are up to Asolo's always high standards.

This has been a year of excellent performances at Asolo Rep and 4000 Miles adds to the success of the 2013-2014 season.

4000 Miles, presented by Asolo Repertory Theater through April 27, 2014, at the Historic Asolo Theater, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, Florida, 34243. For performance and ticketing information, visit www.asolorep.org or call 941-351-8000.

Cast:
Leo Joseph Connell: Benjamin Williamson
Vera Joseph: Lois Markle*
Bec: Maxey Whitehead
Amanda: Lisa Dring*
* Denotes Member of Actor's Equity Association

Directed by Tea Alagic
Scenic Design: Marsha Ginsberg
Costume Design: Alixandra Gage Englund
Lighting Design: Nick Kolin
Sound Design: Jane Shaw
Dramaturg: Lauryn E. Sasso
Stage Manager: Jillian Anderson*


Photo: Slavin Vlasic

--William S. Oser



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