Wednesday, April 3, 2013

GableStage: 4000 Miles (5 reviews)

.GableStage opened its production of Amy Herzong's 4000 Miles on March 16, 2014.
A beautifully rendered portrait of the relationship between an old-style lefty grandmother and her new-style lefty grandson. After suffering a major loss while he was on a cross-country bike trip, 21 year-old Leo seeks solace from his feisty 91 year-old grandmother in her West Village apartment. Over the course of a single month, these unlikely roommates infuriate, bewilder, and ultimately reach each other.   2012 Obie Award for Best New American Play.
Joseph Adler directed a cast that featured Hariet Ozer,  Michael Focas, Kate O'Phelan, and Wei-Yi Lin.

Editor Chuck Strouse decided to save a dime and play theater critic for The Miami New Times:
The play is a delight, filled with contradiction, subplots, and the profundity of coming of age after a horrible tragedy. It's funny, beautifully staged, and smartly written.
Oser's flawless technique makes it thoroughly believable and emotionally powerful. This extraordinarily talented actress, who has garnered at least ten Carbonell nominations over the years, is the best thing about this show. It's worth attending simply to see her tour de force.
...Focas can't really pull it off. Unlike every other actor on the stage, his emotional range is narrow, which limits the empathy the audience develops for him. He has wonderful moments, including the aforementioned pot-smoking scene, but one senses he's acting the part too often. This is Focas's first equity performance, and he should grow as a performer before he garners another.
However, there are so many excellent aspects of 4000 Miles that this shortcoming seems minor. Wei-Lyi Lin does a superb job of playing a Chinese-American floozy whom Leo brings home. She's funny and fun to watch — a laugh a second. Lyle Baskin's set design is clever — a dial phone, an old couch, and an old-school kitchen providing an appropriately grandmotherly backdrop... Steve Welsh's lighting and Ellis Tillman's costumes, particularly that of Oser's Vera, also merit notice.
...overall, the pacing is perfect — a credit to Joseph Adler's always-brilliant direction. Herzog is a writer in her mid-30s whose talent is growing fast and who is clearly testing herself and her art form. I look forward to seeing more from her on local stages.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
South Florida first experienced Herzog’s work when the now-defunct Caldwell Theatre Company produced After the Revolution in 2011. Now GableStage is exploring more of Herzog’s funny, melancholy, truth-filled family drama in its new production of 4000 Miles.
Herzog’s insightfully observed study of this familial odd couple is a journey too. The playwright examines how love binds people across generations, even as annoyance and flashes of anger infuse their daily coexistence. Herzog introduces unseen characters and plot points that she doesn’t always fully explain -- that’s a facet of her plays that can be frustrating -- but the world she creates in that Village apartment feels authentic.

Director Joseph Adler mines the script for its poignancy, conflict and, when Leo brings home art school student Amanda (Wei-Yi Lin) for a wild one-night stand, riotous comedy.

As the younger women in Leo’s world, O’Phalen and Lin create vastly different characters. O’Phalen’s Bec is angry, sour, finished with Leo if not quite over him. Because we grow to appreciate the amiable if flawed Leo, it’s tough to empathize with Bec. Lin’s drunk, style-conscious, unedited Amanda is a comedic tour de force, a woman dressed with singular style by costume designer Ellis Tillman. And when she’s startled by Vera’s sudden and inconvenient appearance, the moment is priceless. Amanda’s presence in 4000 Miles is fleeting, but once she exits, you miss her.
Oser’s Vera is lonely, frustrated by her physical losses and the infuriating neighbor who calls every night to make sure she hasn’t died. The actress is thoroughly convincing as a feisty leftist whose views on everything from politics to sex are as frankly expressed as ever. Vera is another great portrait in Oser’s impressive gallery.

As Leo, Focas communicates a lost young soul’s desire to hide from the rest of his family, grown-up responsibility and life’s pressures. His Leo is generally amiable, making his occasional eruptions of temper unnerving, and his yearning for Bec is palpable.

Herzog’s 4000 Miles is full of funny exchanges and painful ones, plot twists, awkward moments, exasperation and sweetness. Like life itself, it’s a journey of highs and lows, but at GableStage, it’s a ride worth taking.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
GableStage’s production of Amy Herzog’s play 4000 Miles is a puzzle. We can tell you the intriguing premise, we can sketch out the plot, we can describe the engaging characters, we can praise the strong performances and even identify the touching and funny moments.

But we can’t tell you what the play is about.
There’s a personal journey of sorts for the hero who seems to work his way out of an emotional depression while visiting his elderly grandmother in the wake of a horrific tragedy. But what occurs during this visit to spark that change is a mystery.
But this production has it shares of assets. Adler once again proves his skill at physical staging and pacing that is so dexterous that it’s invisible.

Any strong performance owes a good deal to Adler, but honor that Oser’s work here is so naturalistic that audiences may not realize how much craft she has brought to it. This is especially effective in her depiction of the slow deterioration of her mental acuity. It’s not just that Vera can’t find her checkbook or recall words to describe her thoughts aloud; it’s how Oser conveys Vera’s barely concealed anger at being reduced from a vital independent human being to someone too proud to ask for badly needed help.

Focas has only worked in the area a little bit according to his bio and this is his first Equity lead role. But he does a competent job keeping Leo real. He seems bemused rather than condescending at his grandmother being stuck in the 20th Century – she looks up a phone number in the Yellow Pages rather than use the Macbook her sons gave her. He makes credible Leo’s alternative untethered lifestyle that eschews a cell phone as well as Leo’s evasion of the tragedy.

As always at GableStage, the technical end is flawless.
Roger Martin reviwed for miamiartzine: carp about the script: 4000 Miles received two Obies in 2012 and rave reviews from the NY Times, Time Magazine, and Time Out New York and I just don't understand that. I guess some people like plays in which you need a separate list just to keep track of the never seen characters and all the scenes that occur off stage. (I'd loved to have seen Leo kissing his sister, step or not). It's as if the playwright chucked everything she could think of into the piece and then said to hell with it, let's not let them see any of it.
Stuff on the good side? Joseph Adler's direction. Harriet Oser's performance: completely winning. The realistic apartment and kitchen by Lyle Baskin. Matt Corey's sound. Lighting by Steve Walsh, costumes Ellis Tillman and props by Beth Fath.
Ron Levitt reviewed for ENV Magazine:
It is a play filled with hearts, humor and honesty, brought to life under the sensitive direction of Joseph Adler, whose attention to detail and emotion will be with you long after you leave the theatre.
This unique production not only can stir emotions for its realism but also gives to two generations of actors – Harriet Oser and Michael Focas – an opportunity to shine on stage as they allow their characters to explore hidden truths.
Both actors give performances that defy description. You will end up feeling you know both of them personally and, perhaps, remind you of your own relationship with an aging relative.  This play’s  honesty   about these delicate human beings  smacks of realism one seldom  gets in the theatre. You cannot help care about these people you see on stage, sometimes forgetting they are only characters.
4000 Miles plays at GableStage through Aprll 14, 2013

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