Love, loss, aging and growth run through the flawed tapestry of Obie Prize-winning and Pulitzer Prize-winning play Amy Herzog. 4000 miles.
The play begins as 21-year-old Leo (Westport native Clay Singer) crashes into the Greenwich Village apartment of his feisty 91-year-old grandmother Vera (Fairfield resident Mia Dillon) at 3 a.m. in the morning. He’s sweaty and smelly, having finished a cross-country bike ride from Seattle. She lives on her own, self-sufficiently but suffers the indignities of aging – loss of hearing, teeth and memory. Leo and Vera are both endearing and original characters with a strong affection for each other despite their differences in age, region (he loves the outdoors and she can’t imagine a life outside the city ) and values (he’s a hippy and doesn’t even own a cell phone; she wears a communist card). They also have something painful and important in common: the estrangement of Jane, Vera’s daughter-in-law and Leo’s mother.
But their common problem over Jane is not at the heart of the play. Leo comes across as carefree and aimless, but he nurses the pain of losing his best friend, Mika, in a tragic accident during the bike trip and his guilt for kissing his adoptive sister while he and his friends were drunk. He’s also in an on-again-off-again relationship with Bec (Lia DiMarchi), who tries to save the world, and has a brief date with barfly Amanda (Phoebe Holden). Vera, meanwhile, is candid about her opinion of Bec’s weight, which offends Leo, and her unsatisfied relationship with her two husbands.
You have a quartet of interesting and friendly people, but the tapestry has a lot of holes in it. Neither Bec nor Amanda are fully developed characters. Bec seems too serious to even have much interest in Leo, and Amanda starts off as flighty and superficial, but does a 180 the moment she hears about Vera’s political leanings. The contrived ending doesn’t fix the details and just isn’t plausible.
That said, the strength of the production is the incredible cast. Mia Dillon is incapable of giving less than a fantastic performance. Her Vera is fiery and generous. Clay Singer is energetic and fun as Leo. DiMarchi is caring and compassionate like Bec. And Phoebe Holden is a total delight as Amanda. These actors deserve a better script. Thankfully, David Kennedy’s smooth direction helped showcase their immense talents.
Kudos to the creative team for Arnulfo Moldanado’s set of an enviable rent-controlled apartment, lighting by Carolina Oritz Herrera, sound by Fitz Patton, and costumes by Maiko Matsuhima.
The production runs from Tuesday to Sunday until September 4 and offers a special surprise. At the end of the race, ticket buyers will be entered into a freebie for a Cannondale Adventure bike, courtesy of Cycleology Bike and Ski of Westport. To win, submit a name, phone number and email when purchasing a ticket to the show anytime through Sunday, September 4 at 3 p.m. The Westport Country Playhouse is located at 25 Powers Court in Westport. For tickets, call (203) 227-4177 or visit https://www.westportplayhouse.org/show/4000Miles. Don’t forget to bring your mask and proof of vaccination. Follow Westport Country Playhouse on Twitter @WCPlayhouse and Instagram @wcplayhouse and YouTube on WestportPlayhouse.