A simple premise and a beautifully portrayed relationship can lead to a very immersive theatre experience. In Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles, Vera and her grandson Leo have a relationship that gradually becomes something very touching. It was so immersive that, during one scene an audience member shouted “Avocado!” to help Vera, frustrated about forgetting her words, remember the name of a slimy green fruit with a pit in the middle.
Nicola Cavendish was endearing and highly comical as Vera, the 91-year old former activist. Nathan Barrett as her hippie grandson Leo complimented her well. When Leo shows up at her door at 3:00 a.m. one morning, Vera barks, “Are you high?” She doesn’t mince her words, and she is a strong character who elicited many laughs through subtle things such as meticulous laundry folding or angrily kicking aside shoes in the doorway.
Leo, after cycling from Seattle to New York, ends up at his grandma’s apartment with no money and no plan, which is fine by Vera, as she enjoys having her grandson stay with her. The two become reacquainted after not having seen each other since her husband’s funeral.
Vera thinks that Leo has come to New York to see Bec, his girlfriend (who Vera refers to as “the chubby one”), but, although he went to her place first that night, she wasn’t the purpose of his trip. Leo was cycling across the country with his best friend Mica, but he met with tragedy along the way. Leo had to finish what they had started, and although his family was against it, he kept riding until he made it to New York. To finish the trip, all Leo has to do is dip his front tire in the Atlantic, but for some reason he can’t bring himself to do it.
Having a partially deaf grandma comes in handy when Leo brings home Amanda (Agnes Tong), an eccentric girl who says of herself, “I’m usually pretty slutty.” They talk for a while and finally begin kissing when Vera walks in and ruins the mood.
Sex isn’t a total taboo between Vera and Leo, but it takes a joint and forgetting that he’s talking to his grandma for Leo to open up just a bit too much. As Vera and Leo learn more about each other, it becomes clear that some things cross the generational divide. They are both searching for meaning, and having each other there for support makes all the difference.
4000 Miles is presented by Arts Club Theatre Company September 11 to October 12. For more information, visit artsclub.com.