Review: 4000 Miles (Adelaide University Theatre Guild)

Grief, politics, and family take centre-stage in Amy Herzog’s Pulitzer finalist

Laura Antoniazzi and Jackson Barnard in 4000 Miles.

Venue: Little Theatre, University of Adelaide
Directed by Erik Strauts
Written by Amy Herzog
Length: 2 hours + intermission

You sit on a couch in a cosy New York apartment. Your feet rest on a coffee table covered with books, and across the room you spot a copy of the Communist Manifesto, bright red on a bookshelf. Nearby, a framed photo of a stern old man studies the book in memory. There is still a scent of afternoon coffee and biscuits in the room. The doorbell rings. A visitor at 3am.

On the set of 4000 Miles, left-wing politics and grief take the stage next to the day-to-day of life. Leo, after losing someone close to his heart, arrives at his ex-activist grandmother’s apartment in New York seeking a spare bed.

Throughout the first half of the play, they struggle to get along, arguing, shouting, and blaming each other for anything and everything. Leo is closed-off and unable to deal with adulthood, whilst Vera is overbearing and forgetful.

The tension at the start of the show does well to keep the audience hooked throughout the first hour. But Amy Herzog’s talent as a playwright can best be seen in the second half. The same goes for Jackson Barnard’s performance as Leo. As the character becomes more comfortable with Vera, he is open to a wider range of emotions, and the Barnard delivers the humour especially well. They come to appreciate the importance of everyday life; biscuits, coffee, and the comforting shoulder of a family member.

Julie Quick, playing the zestful grandmother, is perfect, able to cajole a laugh through the smallest of actions; the way she pushes herself off the couch with a grunt to get up, or feistily throws down a telephone after a dumb argument with her neighbour.

The play has a lean cast of five, and the other three are all women Leo has some complicated history with. Naomi Gomez’s portrayal of Amanda, a girl Leo brings home from a bar, is a standout. Her presence takes over the apartment as she parades around drunkenly self-absorbed, but at the same time dismantles the entire political climate of the play.

It is in scenes like this where the play delivers dramatic comedy perfectly, showing that sometimes we must work through complicated emotions, or politics, to arrive at a place of comfort and humour. In 4000 Miles, you laugh, but are also taken to a place larger than the play, Vera’s apartment, or the Little Theatre.

4000 Miles is showing until 23 October. Book your tickets here.

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