Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
Leo (Clay Singer), 21 years of age, has just biked from Seattle to his 91-year-old grandmother's Greenwich Village apartment. He's suffered a catastrophic loss of a cycling partner and dear friend en route. Leo's relationship with his girlfriend Bec (Lea DiMarchi) is probably about to end. Lanky and gawky, he's a contemporary hippie-like sweet guy who, as the show opens, hasn't showered in ages. Vera (Mia Dillon), not one to be shy with commentary, lets her grandson know how he smells, voices her opinion about what she recalls of Bec's physique, provides insight into each of her marriages, and delightfully fiddles with hearing aids if not her teeth.
An angry and complex Bec comes on stage (Vera is not present) and the younger people parry. It's not pretty but very real and Herzog's back-and-forth propels the play with plenty of fuel to sustain until its conclusion. Amanda (Phoebe Holden), the fourth character, also brings something different, something new, somewhat later, when she and Leo arrive at Grandma's abode as part of a first date. Sketchy Amanda boldly admits she's sexually active but Herzog steers away from the predictable during this portion of her play.
Herzog's writing is sharp as she mixes comic zingers, hints of politics, and insight into the complexities of her characters' lives. Director David Kennedy has made a wise choice to pace the dialogue swiftly. If this were not so, the very beginning of 4000 Miles might be a tad talky. As it is, the opening sequences acquaint the audience with the lead characters and the knowledge that neither of them has particular affection just now for (your preference) Vera's daughter or (same person) Leo's mother.
Arnulfo Maldonado's scenic design includes a backdrop of numerous books before which rest a worn, soft-looking sofa and chair. That's just about right since the two principal characters, in distinctive ways and manners, are each warmly endearing. As Leo, Clay Singer (who went to high school in Westport) is winningly sweet. Vulnerable and emotional, he is open with his feelings and anxieties. Mia Dillon, the acclaimed actress who lives in Fairfield, the town bordering Westport, gives a gem of a performance. With significant New York City and Connecticut credits, the actress's physical rendering of Vera is masterful. Her carriage askew, Dillon combines shuffle with a wish to briskly traverse the floor, a difficult combination for someone on the other side of 90. Vera tries to get somewhere fast but that isn't likely. She knows the apartment confines since the place has been hers for decades. Glib Vera is also precise and sometimes audacious with meddling advice. Even when she probably understands it's unwise to inject her quarter's worth of recommendation, she cannot desist. Vera specifically and wonderfully crafted by Dillon.
In all, 4000 Miles is an affecting and thoughtful play, one which says quite a bit about people's interface at a core level. Vera and Leo are a quirky, atypical pair yet they are close and they care. Bec, too, even as she is about to break up with Leo, admits that she's worried about him. Herzog's dialogue profoundly demonstrates both the fragility of the human condition as well as possibilities, leaving the observer to ponder.
4000 Miles runs through September 4, 2022, at Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Ct., Westport CT. For tickets and information, call 203-227-4177 or visit westportplayhouse.org.