San Francisco Theater Review: 4000 MILES (A.C.T.)

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by Stacy Trevenon on January 27, 2013

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area

GROWING UP AND GROWING OLD

Engaging, comfortable, realistic, gripping, and heart-tugging – all these tags apply equally to story, language, script and performances in American Conservatory Theater’s 4000 Miles, graciously directed by Mark Rucker.

Stacy Trevenon’s Stage and Cinema review of A.C.T.’s 4000 MILES in San FranciscoBilled as a “comic drama,” 4000 Miles is indeed an engrossing human drama spiced with down-to-earth humor. 21-year-old Leo arrives unexpectedly at the rent-controlled Greenwich Village apartment of his nonagenarian grandmother Vera. A laid-back, latter-day hippie coasting on a freewheeling lifestyle – yet driven uncomfortably by recent events – Leo easily develops a warm rapport with his grandmother, whose feistiness and open-mindedness support her in negotiating the modern world. Also to enter the scene are Leo’s girlfriend – with whom he shares a tenuous relationship – and Amanda, his new interest; along with these and sobering changes in Vera’s apartment complex community, the relationship between grandmother and grandson shapes into an exploration of life, losses, growing up, growing older, and how disparate yet similar these two are.

As Leo, Reggie Gowland is easygoing and likable, drawing us into the human drama and difficult emotional currents that fueled his bike ride to his grandmother’s home. Stacy Trevenon’s Stage and Cinema review of A.C.T.’s 4000 MILES in San FranciscoAs Vera, Susan Blommaert is convincing and appealing, well-made-up as a character much older than the actress. She effortlessly sketches a character who defies the generation gap and relates to her young grandson without giving up an iota of her own personality and what created it. She captures the difficulties of aging – compromised movement, weak hearing and isolation – and presents them in a thoughtful, identifiable way without making that information ponderous or off-putting.

Julia Lawler turns in well-rounded performance as girlfriend Bec, forging ahead with her life but conscientiously connected to Leo’s world and the people in it. Camille Mena has an all-too-short and delightful scene as Amanda, Leo’s new interest. Both women capture the realities of being twenty-somethings today, deftly balancing their concerns, drives and playfulness.

Stacy Trevenon’s Stage and Cinema review of A.C.T.’s 4000 MILES in San FranciscoPlaywright Amy Herzog touches on experiences she had with her own grandmother. This may provide a framework for her play, but it also reinforces a pertinent dialogue which explores universal issues of inter-generational interaction, communication, housing issues, mortality and commonality. Thus, it’s a presentation that enlightens as it entertains.

Scenic designer Erik Flatmo’s sprawling and comfortably decorated set encompassed both Vera’s apartment and the hallway outside her unit, with hints of the space across-the-hall that belongs to a neighbor – a presence which figures as the story progresses. The textured set reflected the necessities of modern life with hints of past years in a relaxed way that underlined and nicely set off the personalities that moved within it.  Costume designer Alex Jaeger decked the actors in clothing that not only underlined their generations and their personalities, but their character quirks as well.

All in all, a nicely captured picture of life yesterday and today, and how the two mesh as they both move into tomorrow.

Stacy Trevenon’s Stage and Cinema review of A.C.T.’s 4000 MILES in San Francisco[Click here for Stage and Cinema’s review of Lincoln Center’s production.]

photos by Kevin Berne

4000 Miles
American Conservatory Theater’s Geary Theater
scheduled to end on February 10, 2013
for tickets, call (415) 749-2228 or visit http://www.act-sf.org

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