By Beki Pineda
4000 MILES. Written by Amy Herzog; directed by Len Matheo. Produced by Miners Alley Playhouse (1224 Washington St., Golden) through March 6. Tickets available at 303-935-3044 or www.minersalley.com.
I’ve always said that what you as an audience member bring to the theater can positively or negatively impact how you feel about a production. Anyone who has or had a good relationship with their grandparents or grandkids will love 4000 MILES. Personally, my oldest grandson came to live with me at 16 and we have been best friends ever since. A scene midway through the show brought one of his bucket-list wishes to life: getting high with granny. I had to laugh out loud; they had me at “Another toke, Grandma?”
A rumpled twenty-something shows up at his Grandma Vera’s house with his bicycle and his heartache in the middle of the night. He started his journey on the West Coast, dipping his back tire in the Pacific with the intent of dipping his front tire in the Atlantic when he reaches his destination in New York. The thing that pulls him there, however, is not a reunion with Grandma but reconnecting with Becca, the girlfriend who chose not to make the cross-country trek. Becca’s greeting, less than enthusiastic, is what has landed Leo on Vera’s doorstep.
What follows is a series of scenes of reconnection between Vera and Leo, the building of small rituals and understandings, and the re-entry of Becca into Leo’s life. When Leo’s journey started, there were two travelers, but only one made it to New York. We watch as Leo learns to deal with loss and begins to look forward to new journeys. A lovable and competent young man makes baby steps into maturity with the help of his loving matriarch.
This cast is impeccable! Curtiss Johns is an adorable, slightly befuddled Leo. It would be hard for any grandma to turn him away. Deborah Persoff brings the opinionated Vera to glorious life with her housecoats and permed hair. Being not too far from Vera’s advanced age, I found it easy to recognize and connect with her care in sitting down, her fussing with the pillows, and her cautious steps up and down to go in and out of the kitchen. Her love for Leo is genuine; she knows to step back and let him find his own way. The character of Vera (based on Herzog’s own grandmother) was first introduced in an earlier play, and proved so feisty that she was brought back for a second round. We get a hint of Vera’s political beliefs and past life from the Che Guevara poster on the back wall.
Alaina Beth Reel plays Leo’s needs-to-be-convinced girlfriend. She has moved on . . . or has she? But the one-scene wonder of the night is Jenna Moll Reyes as Lily, a club girl Leo brings back to the apartment for a one-night hookup. Her character is written to be a bright whirling spot, arriving like a falling star. Boy, does she brighten things up as she teases and flirts and seduces! Everyone in the audience wanted to go party with her. Jenny takes what is written and creates her own tornado out of it. We can only hope that Herzog brings Lily back in a future play.
As with so many things in our individual lives, the smallest of kind gestures, the most simple of times when it seems like nothing is really happening, turn out to be turning points in our lives. As it is with Leo. I have confidence that later in life, he will look back on this time with Vera with fondness and understanding. Most especially after she is gone.
Miners Alley Playhouse moved to Golden 13 years ago and has brought consistent and constantly improving theater to the foothills ever since. The production and management team for the company have created a warm and comfortable space for their casts, crews and audiences to enjoy professional theater at its best. Denver and Boulder audiences alike have enjoyed the fruit of their efforts—you should too!
WOW factor: 9