Highly Recommended**** Northlight Theatre, a charming venue located in shadows of Old Orchard, in its history, selects plays that will promote change in perspective and explore the depth of our Humanity. In the current production, the Chicago premiere of Amy Herzog’s “4000 Miles”, we get to witness how two people, one young, the other an eighty year old Plus, grandmother, learn how each needs the other to have a relationship. The story takes place in New York. It is the apartment of Vera Joseph ( deliciously played by Maty Ann Thebus) who has been awakened by a buzzer being leaned on by her grandson,Leo ( deftly handled by Josh Salt). Leo has come , by bike, all the way from Seattle to see his on again, off again girlfriend Bec ( theasdorable Caroline Neff) who has decided to break it off with him, and so he ends up, dirty and tired, ringing Grandma’s bell.
As we see from Herzog’s words, the relationship between Grandma and grandson is quite strained, but family is family and Vera does allow Leo to move in. Smoothly directed by Kimberly Senior on a wonderful set ((Jack Magaw), we can sense the forty plus years that Vera has lived in what we later find out is a “rent controlled apartment ( a treasure) in New York. While Leo has been there in his younger years, had it not been for Bec’s rejection, we get the feeling that Grandma would not have been a part of this trip, but since she is, and Leo is down in the dumps , as well as the pocketbook, he does stay and we get the benefit of watching the two “strangers” become family again.
This is one hour and fifty minutes , no intermission, where we get a glimpse into why the family is somewhat estranged. We also get to watch Leo’s “coming of age” as he realizes just why he has done some of the things he has done involving relationships in general. He has a sister, back home in St. Paul with his mom, an adopted sister, of Asian heritage and as part of his “coming of age” finds himself questioning that relationship as well. In one of the later scenes, when he brings a young Asian woman home ( the delightful, and very bubbly Emjoy Gavino) we learn just a bit more about this. This is a very funny scene in which Grandma’s eyes are opened as well.
I know we have seen many “coming of age” stories on our stages and of course in films, but I found this one to be very honest and real in building , or should I say, rebuilding a relationship where two lonely relatives find that having each other is the one positive force in their lives at this juncture. Herzog’s warmth and honesty make it work and Senior and her cast are sheer perfection in telling this story. I attended on a Saturday afternoon, which in Skokie is made up of an older audience. They were pleased with what they saw, and so was I!
The technical parts of the production are truly the icing on the cake- Christine A. Binder(lights), Rachel Laritz ( costumes),Christopher Kriz ( some beautiful original music) and Brad Sauper (props). One never tryly recognizes some of the technical aspects of a show until something goes wrong or is missing. Saturday, the phone broke and Ms Thebus, pro that she is, covered it quite smoothly. Later, the phone appeared to be perfect ( and yet, we never saw any one repair it) which shows that the story being told was far more important than a slight miscue- well done Northlight!
“4000 Miles” will continue at Northlight Theatre located at 9501 N. Skokie Blvd ( extension of Cicero Avenue) in Skokie, through October 20th with performances as follows:
Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 2:30 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2:30 and 7 p.m.
Tickets range from $25-$75 and are available at the theater box office, by phone at 847-673-6300 or at www.northlight.org
There is plenty of free parking at Northlight and lots of dining spots in the area,Post show discussions October 9th there will be one and there are others which you can find on the website.
to see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “4000 Miles”