By Dawn Watson
The journey one takes from naïve young adult to sage elder is a lifetime long, but if done right, it’s worth every step.
For Hampton Theatre Company audiences in Quogue, it will most likely be a sort of trip down memory lane to watch the very beginning of the quest through the eyes of 21-year-old idealistic dreamer Leo, and perhaps comforting to see how the future might unfold, as illuminated by the experiences of his courageous and scrappy 91-year-old grandmother Vera. But in the end, it’s their shared emotional travels that will make Amy Herzog’s “4,000 Miles” satisfyingly worth the sojourn.
The Obie Award-winning Best New American Play, a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize and Time magazine’s pick for Number One Play or Musical of 2012, is nothing if not a well-drawn drama made from the stuff of real life. Inspired by Ms. Herzog’s own family members, in “4,000 Miles,” The New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award winner mines a few universal truths about the process of emotional progress. The show also bridges the generation gap in a way that is thoughtful, endearingly charming and funny, says Hampton Theatre Company Board President, Executive Director and this production’s director, Sarah Hunnewell.
“It’s a coming-of-age story but also just a terrific study in relationships,” she says of the drama that clearly and cleverly illustrates some of the more frustrating barriers between youth and maturity. “Very honest and blunt, so well written in a real way how people actually talk, it’s also about learning how to be connected and not cut yourself off from the other people, particularly the ones you love and who love you.”
Starring Hampton Theatre Company Artistic Director Diana Marbury as feisty grandmother Vera Joseph and returning player Ben Schnickel as her unmoored grandson Leo, the show opens as Leo pays an unexpected visit to his grandmother’s Greenwich Village apartment at 3 a.m. Adrift and alone, the young man has just completed a 4,000-mile bike trip, mostly on his own. Surprised by her middle-of-the-night visitor, Vera nonetheless welcomes her grandson with open arms.
As the story progresses, the two—who tend to annoy and frustrate each other in the specific way that only family can—eventually achieve real emotional depth and connection through understanding and acceptance. It’s not necessarily a dramatic rollercoaster ride but it is a deeply satisfying 90 minutes at the theater, reports Ms. Hunnewell.
“This show has been on our radar for a couple of years,” she says. “There’s just so much there that is satisfying: how we need each other because we can’t just tough things out and do it alone; how loss connects us and affects our lives; how it’s important to stand up and take responsibility for ourselves, to not just disappear when the going gets rough; ultimately, independence and connection.”
The four-person play also stars HTC vet Amanda Griemsmann as Leo’s on-again-off-again girlfriend Bec and company newcomer Samantha Herrera as Amanda, a young woman whom Leo meets in a bar. As audiences in Quogue have come to expect, the drama will be punctuated by fully fleshed out set design by Sean Marbury, lighting design by Sebastian Paczynski, and costumes by Teresa Lebrun.
The show opens on Thursday, January 12, at the Quogue Community Hall and stages through Sunday, January 29. Show days and times are Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. There will also be an additional matinee performance of “4000 Miles” on Saturday, January 28, at 2:30 p.m. prior to the regular 8 p.m. evening performance.
The Hampton Theatre Company is also offering special dinner and theater packages in collaboration with the Westhampton, Southampton, Hampton Bays and Quogue libraries. Information about the dinner and theater packages is available at www.hamptontheatre.org. New this season, HTC is offering $15 discounted tickets for audience members 35 and under. For more information or to reserve tickets, visit www.hamptontheatre.org, or call OvationTix at (866) 811-4111.