La Boite’s 2014 Indie season kicks off with Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles.
Clever and unpretentious, 4000 Miles delivers contemporary writing with a traditional feel, merging current ideas with age-old struggles.This makes it equally appealing to both younger and older audiences.
Director Anthony Skuse has done a superb job. The simple yet effective stage setting, an elderly woman’s New York apartment living room (designer Gez Xavier Mansfield), is used to its full potential and scenes are well orchestrated. 4000 Miles has a ‘Chekov’ feel, which I suspect is Skuse’s influence.
After finishing a bicycle trek across the country, from Seattle to New York, Leo arrives at his Grandmother’s looking for a place to stay, at 3am. He is trying to escape his emotional demons and to avoid a confrontation with his family.
Diana Mclean is marvelous as his grandmother, the cynical yet open-minded Vera. Struggling with her aging body, failing mind and lack of company. Her physicality and energy are a perfect foil for Stephen Multari’s spirited yet full-of-angst Leo.
From the promotional material I had assumed this piece was a two-hander. The first scenes played out whilst two stage hands sat on the outskirts watching and rearranging the set and also interacting with the performers. Their casual self-awareness initially put me off, though I made allowances as this is the Indie season in which plays tend to tamper with tradition. I was surprised and excited when they became characters in what turned out to be a four-actor ensemble.
Joanna Downing’s stage presence as emotionally confused ex-girlfriend Bec, brought a fresh momentum to the piece. Her ability to readily access emotion provided a palpable realism in her scenes. Aileen Huynh as Amanda was eccentrically hilarious. Her physicality was outstanding and her ability to be in the moment ensured that her performance was always interesting to watch.
The impressive soundtrack, including background noise of passing traffic, created a real ‘New York City’ vibe, and composer Marty Jameson clearly appreciates tracks from decades past – lovers of the Velvet Underground will appreciate the play’s homage to the band.
The main focus is is the flux of life, travelling through different phases and dealing with the emotions that come with adaption. A secondary theme, death, is approached in an unsentimental manner.
The only criticism I have comes at the play’s climax, when Leo recounts the story that has led him to his crossroads. This entire scene was played out in the dark. Maybe the aim was to allow the audience to create their own images of what happened.
Overall La Boite Indie’s presentation of 4000 Miles is a success. The writing is wonderfully idiosyncratic and the acting is outstanding; worth seeing for acting master class alone.
4000 Miles will play at the Roundhouse Theatre until May 17th