Leo didn’t come to New York to visit his grandmother.
  • Leo didn’t come to New York to visit his grandmother.
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Leo bikes 4000 miles from Seattle to his grandmother’s Manhattan apartment. In Amy Herzog’s 95-minute piece, Leo doesn’t get along with his mother, whom we never see, but has more to share with a generation once removed. Not that the relationship is without challenges. Eventually, after the shock of not having seen one another for so long, and catching up, Leo and Vera settle into a routine, of sorts.

4000 Miles

Slowly, the family dynamics become clearer. Leo didn’t come to New York to visit his grandmother. He’s trying to get in touch with his girlfriend, Bec. She moved to New York but has other plans for a new life.

Leo (Connor Sullivan) is running away from a complicated relationship with his adopted sister, Lily (Yumi Roussin). He has an encounter with an entertaining party girl, Amanda (also played by Roussin). The play, in fact, concerns Leo and all of his female relationships: a young man on the run, trying to find out who he really is.

But why is he running, and why does he need to bike 4000 miles all over America to find himself?

Playwright Amy Herzog obviously knows something about writing intergenerational dialogue. It shows us who Leo is, at the same time showing the difference in values between generations.

Herzog’s characters ring true. Jill Drexler plays the grandmother with conviction. All the attributes are there: the slow gait, the aches and pains, the hearing loss. But the play, ultimately, isn’t about her. It’s about Leo. The 20-something has all the attitudes and values of a new generation — so much that he describes the experience of riding a bike at 15 miles per hour perfectly.

In the end, Leo shows himself able to be more mature than we expected. He comes to terms with reality and delivers a eulogy. Though he doesn’t have to deliver it, he volunteers because it feels like the right thing to do, and he makes thoughtful observations about the deceased. But he notes, without being prompted, that the ending lacks finesse — another sign of his budding maturity. In the manner of a younger generation, however, it’s a tad flippant. And the play itself doesn’t have an elegant or polished ending either. Clearly the acting or Claudio Raygoza’s directing are not at fault. Sometimes plays get wrapped up too fast. That’s a shame because everything else says “compelling piece of work.” Go see it for all the right reasons.

Playing through October 15

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