Winter is a time for quieter plays on the A.C.T. calendar, and the current production, 4000 Miles, is no exception. It's a new play by Amy Herzog having its West Coast premiere, and it's a story about a sensitive, grieving, modern twentysomething and his grandmother, a Lefty and one-time Communist and peace activist, now living by herself in a Manhattan apartment.
Grandson Leo arrives by surprise in the middle of the night after making a 4000-mile trek from Seattle on his bike. While on the trip, something tragic befalls his best friend, and he decides he needs to "rest up" for a while and hide from the world and the rest of his family with his Grandma Vera.
Vera and Leo haven't seen each other in about a decade, when Vera's husband died, and Leo has grown into a tall, sympathetic hippie whose only passions after leaving college are bike-riding, camping, rock climbing, and growing his own food. Political-mindedness and pragmatic love for the world may have skipped a generation, and so even though Leo can't bear to even talk about his mother, he and Vera get along terrifically. There's a huge generational divide between them, certainly, but at one point Leo observes that while he and all his friends may talk shallowly about changing the world, his grandmother and grandfather were true idealists. "I think it must have been cool, to be so, um. Uncynical," he says. "Like I think I'm really uncynical... but you guys. That's like a whole other level..."
Reggie Gowland gives a nuanced, dead-on performance as the wounded and searching Leo, and Susan Blommaert is wonderful as the brittle but stalwart Vera, frustrated that she can't always find her words, and needful without ever coming off as needy. Julia Lawler and Camille Mana also give terrific turns as women in Leo's life.
The play is a tight 90 minutes, with restrained, empathetic direction from Mark Rucker. By the end, nothing enormous, or devastating, or thrilling has taken place, but we've witnessed something undeniably rare and sweet: Two people who are related to each other actually taking the time to know each other as they are, and keep each other company without judgment, or guilt.
4000 Miles plays through February 10. Get tickets here.