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A Wonderful Play

Mary Louise Wilson and Gabriel Ebert play grandmother and grandson in the New York production of "4000 Miles"
Photo by Chang W. Lee via here

The holidays are upon us and everyone is rushing around and getting ready.  It was nice to take a break from thinking about them and to remember a wonderful play I saw last Spring.  And, surprisingly, the memory of this play lead me back to the holidays and all the family reunions that are coming up.   I was in San Francisco over the weekend and noticed in the Arts Monthly that the play "4000 Miles" by Amy Herzog will be having its west coast premiere at the American Conservatory Theater in January.  The first time I heard of this play was when I read Charles Isherwood's beautifully written review of it in the New York Times in April.  Is is possible for a review to make you cry?  The answer is yes.  I was so touched by his description of the play -- its content and emotional power -- that I had to see it. Luckily, I was going to New York soon after reading the review and was able to get tickets for a performance.

The play is about a young man, the 21-year old Leo, who unexpectedly turns up on the doorstep of his feisty 91-year-old grandmother Vera's New York apartment.  Leo has just made a cross-country bike trip from Seattle (hence the title) and is seeking refuge from his parents with whom he has been fighting, as well as some healing from a tragedy that happened during the bike trip.   The relationship that develops between grandmother and grandson and the revelations about their characters are slowly and beautifully illuminated throughout the play.  It turns out that Leo is the more fragile of the two (at least emotionally) and the grandmother's wisdom and strength fortifies and comforts him.  They are both hippies, in their own way, and have much more in common than is outwardly apparent.  They are enriched by the experience of being together and the play brings attention to the important relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. There is a special kind of love and acceptance that comes from grandparents and this play made me think about my own and how important they were to my life.  "4000 Miles" is funny and poignant; it will remind you of many things that are true about human nature and life.  I remember leaving the theater feeling happy and inspired that plays like this are being written and performed.         

"4000 Miles" won two OBIE Awards, including best New American Play.  And now it is having its west coast premiere in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theatre in January!  If you live on the west coast and would like to see something very special, try to get tickets to this.  Go here for details.

I would love to know if you saw this play when it was in New York and what you thought of it.  Thinking about it now with Christmas just weeks away, I am reminded of all the young people who will be going home and reuniting with family, both parents and grandparents, for the holiday season.  Amy Herzog has written a beautiful play about family and how rewarding it is to make the effort to understand our differences and cherish our connections.  

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