Wednesday, February 24, 2016

4000 Miles - The Q

Review by John Lombard

4000 miles is a long way to travel, but it's a good distance to put between yourself and a problem. Young adventurer Leo (Stephen Multari) has made this epic trek on his bike and at the open of the play has turned up at the New York apartment of his Jewish grandmother Vera (Diana McLean).

Leo promptly moves in for an extended stay, running from secrets that the play slowly unfurls as he goes about trying to build a new life for himself in New York. He tries to rekindle an old relationship with his non-cooperative ex Bec (Eloise Snape) and generally settles into comfortable inertia. Vera is hugely tolerant of the license that Leo takes - after all, now she can boast to her neighbours that her grandson is visiting.

The cast work together beautifully. This production is a reunion of the original cast, and the familarity of the performers with both the play and each other shines through in the excellent timing and the clockwork organisation of stage business. Amy Herzog's script is highly literate and extremely witty, with Vera in particular getting the best (often very Jewish) jokes.

However, the play avoids many of the opportunities of the situation for conflict and drama. With Leo literally hiding from his problems, we are left watching a showreel of things he does to kill time. Occassionally he hops on the internet to talk with his sister (Aileen Huynh, one of the problems he won't deal with), but for the most part the only real conflict in his life is his misguided attempt to re-woo his ex. Leo's true primary conflict is inner, but with the exception of a key revelation near the end of the play we are left guessing at what drives him.

Part of the problem may be that this is intended at the middle chapter of a proposed trilogy. In context, the broader purpose of the play may be more visible. As it is, Leo's minor adventures feel almost picaresque.  They still engage - one extremely funny highlight has Aileen Huynh doing double duty as a Leo's aborted drunken hook-up who is horrifed to discover Vera's Communist leanings.  But the interest of the play is in the shading of character rather than the advance of story.

Fortunately, the cast do an excellent job with the material, and the script is genuinely very funny. This is a low key slice of life about a boy and his grandmother generally just getting along. With a little tweaking, this could have been a true classic: as it stands, this is still an entertaining night of theatre.