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EMAV Review: LVLT's '4000 Miles' is solid, rich & entertaining

★★★★☆ - Delicious

A “Four Star Delicious” contemporary dramatic comedy, "4000 Miles," by Amy Herzog, is on stage at the Fischer Black Box.

Vera Joseph’s solitary existence is entirely shaken when her twenty-one year old grandson, Leo, lets himself into her New York City West Village apartment in the middle of the night after a cross-country bike ride all the way from Seattle. Vera, a ninety-one year old political activist, is disoriented and embarrassed, and leaves to put in her dentures and hearing aid. Leo assures Vera that he won’t be staying long. Leo, however, is in crisis! Grieving deeply for his best friend and biking partner, Micah, who is recently deceased; confused by an on-again, off-again romance; and furious with his mother’s incessant meddling -- saying that, “Jane (mom) and I are at a juncture where more talking is not better than less talking.”

For her part, Vera has a comfortable life and a dependable telephone relationship with her neighbor. “It’s Ginny calling, from down the hall. We have an arrangement where she calls me one night and I call her the next, and that way if one of us turns up our toes it won’t take until we start smelling to figure it out.”

While Leo seeks solace in his grandmother, Vera finds companionship in another person for the first time since the loss of her husband, Joe, 10 years ago. A finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Drama, 4000 Miles is a compassionate, intimate, and frequently funny play that examines the love of the family we can choose, the family we can’t, and the healing power of trust.

This deeply affecting dual character study is solidly theatrical, and the entire acting ensemble brings a richness and sensitivity to each character, resulting in a most satisfying and entertaining evening. In their lead roles, both Gail Romero (Vera) and Adam Dunson (Leo) successfully cross the generational divide of 70 years in just a month together as “roommates”. The “lefty octogenarian” lovingly coaxes and cajoles the “New Age” dreamer back into the family fold. Natalie Senecal (Bec) effectively, and lovingly, portrays a strong, intelligent, goal-oriented young woman who stands her ground when it comes time to break things off with Leo. Ruliko Cronin does a wonderful job in both her roles: as Lily (a flighty, Parsons design student coming on to Leo in a tipsy, sexual tease) and as Amanda, in an especially touching teleconference conducted over laptops with her step-brother, Leo.

The production team does a solid job: Lysander Abadia’s set design captures the simple and cozy intimacy of a two-bedroom, Greenwich Village apartment; Kendra Harris’ lighting works effectively throughout, especially when covering the scene transitions with the soft, city street light coming through the expansive (unseen) window, between the stage and audience. April Sauline’s costumes are well done, comfortable and appropriate for the time period and the characters.

The Director, Skip Galla, moves the company effectively around the small stage, and competently balances the work of his production team. However, there are several moments where either sound or lighting elements distract the audience’s attention from the primary focus on stage, which could be attributed to either technical issues or oversight. The sound during scene transitions was inconsistent: ringing telephones accompanied by the click of what seemed to be an answering machine, for no apparent reason; and sometimes (not regularly) music plays during these same transitions. The most glaring lighting miscue is during Leo’s sharing of the intricate details of a Micah’s tragic accident to Vera -- both on the couch, in the middle of the night, so poorly lit that you could barely see their facial expressions at all.

Overall, however, the production personnel and all those involved with Fischer Black Box, and Las Vegas Little Theatre, should be proud of this production and commended on bringing this Obie Award winning play, by the winner of the 2012 New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award, to local audiences.

4000 Miles, by Amy Herzog, is on stage at the Fischer Black Box, Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff Drive, through April 9. Call 702-362-7996 for tickets.

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