Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray
Larry Murray: Since summer began, it feels like we have traveled some 4,000 miles in search of great theater, so it was nice to come back home to Bennington, Vermont’s Oldcastle Theatre after another busy week on the road. Granted it is not really our home, but it feels like one nevertheless. We can always count on director Eric Peterson to never settle for the adequate, whether it be in the acting, scenery or choice of plays.
Gail M. Burns: This is a most satisfying play theatrically and emotionally. This is a play about healing, which can be an agonizingly slow and uneventful process in real life, but which playwright Amy Herzog crafts into a suspenseful narrative with characters we really come to care about. Peterson has assembled a top-notch cast, and Richard Howe has designed another detailed set which uses the Oldcastle performance space to bring you right into Vera’s Greenwich Village living room.
More and more in this region “summer stock” is less about happy musicals and Neil Simon comedies and more about small, thought-provoking new plays. Herzog’s After the Revolution had its world premiere just down the road at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2010, so this 2011 sequel play has a built-in audience. That play won Herzog the New York Times Best Playwright Award, while 4,000 Miles won the 2012 Obie Award for Best New American Play and was nominated for the Pulitzer.
Larry: I loved After the Revolution, Gail. (Review) I have a soft spot in my heart for plays and films about grandmothers and troubled grandsons, and 4,000 Miles did not disappoint, even as it took us in fresh new directions in the complex relationships between skipped generations. Janis Young as Vera Joseph was the perfect senior, fumbling with her hearing aid, her teeth and her memory, she still gave of her heart and home to long-absent Leo Joseph-Connell (Andrew Krug), who had just completed a 4,000 mile cross-country bicycle ride from Seattle to New York City.
Gail: Leo is actually Vera’s step-grandson. His mother was the youngest child of her late second husband. He has suffered a tragic loss while on his cross-country journey, and the way he handled that crisis, and himself in its aftermath, has angered his family and his New York-based girlfriend, Bec (Hannah Heller). Heller had the difficult job of having to enter both of her scenes in a high state of emotion and stress, the causes of which are only obliquely revealed by the end. Hannah is an important part of the play, but it is not about her.