[THEATRE ~ SA]
University of Adelaide Theatre Guild, Little Theatre, Sat 9 Oct, 2021.
Amy Herzog’s Pulitzer Prize winning 4000 Miles covers a lot of territory. It skips across multiple social and political issues affecting the contemporary American landscape. Ageism, dementia, the generation gap, incest, blended families, communism, gender balance in relationships, the importance of real communication, the role of therapy, alienation and loneliness to name a few. And yet not for one minute does it get bogged down in polemics or virtuous lecturing. Indeed, these are all side issues neatly woven into the basic tale of a young man trying to reconnect with family via his grandmother after an exhilarating and heartbreaking bicycle journey across America.
His grandmother, Vera, is in her 80s and lives alone. Though she is struggling with the old age curse of forgetfulness, she is still sharp enough to surprise her grandson with insights about politics and her past. Vera is wonderfully played by Julie Quick. You are immediately drawn into her increasingly lonely world and share her childlike excitement when her grandson Leo, played by Jackson Barnard, decides to stay awhile with her in her New York apartment. Barnard does a good job of playing the confused young man who slowly learns to relate to his grandma who chatters way incessantly while the young Leo struggles to get a word in. It’s endearing to watch their relationship grow and a shared rooftop joint ironically cements the connection!
Two strong, self-assured performances by two of Leo’s love interests complete the cast line-up. Naomi Gomez is gorgeous and beguiling as Amanda, the ditzy young thing whose language skills don’t appear to extend much further than the ubiquitous ‘oh my god’. Leo brings Amanda home to grandma’s apartment and this delightful comedic scene adds an unexpected element to the ongoing theme of communism.
Director Erik Strauts’ direction is un-intrusive and suitably uncomplicated. Excellent use is made of the Little Theatre’s split levels and multiple entry and exit points. Slightly longer than usual interludes between scenes gave the audience opportunity to enjoy Emma Knight’s original piano pieces written specifically for this production, and reflect on what they had just seen.
Really entertaining theatre. Easy to enjoy, plenty to think about if you want to go deeper and in the delightful space that is the Little Theatre, everyone is close to the action.
4000 Miles continues at Little Theatre, The Cloisters, University Of Adelaide, at various times, until Sun 23 Oct.
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