PlayMakers Repertory Company’s producing artistic director Joseph Haj deserves high praise for his successful nine years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s professional-theater-in-residence, and his farewell speech last Saturday night brought a standing ovation prior to the show. Congratulations to him on his new position at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. He’ll be missed.
The set for PlayMakers current production of 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog recreates the interior of a comfortable Greenwich Village rent-controlled apartment that meanders across the front of the stage into two back rooms. Although the time is present, the apartment’s furnishings have not changed since the 1960s, when they were eclectic with oriental rugs, sturdy sofa and chairs, walls of filled bookshelves, a steamer trunk, window seats, a solid dining table and a world globe.
Scenic and costume designer Jan Chambers’ creations give an aura of authenticity to the story. Telephone tones and signals, as well as a falling body lend a sense of reality to the action. Lighting, mostly to indicate change of time, is carefully designed by Xavier Pierce.
Director Desdemona Chiang has realized a family portrait that crosses generational social, political, and cultural lines with ease and tenderness. Her cast brings us right into the story from the start and holds us throughout. We easily really care about the two central characters.
Leo has just arrived at his grandmother Vera’s place in New York City, from the coast of Washington State, on a bicycle, bearing the grief of having lost his best friend in a freak road accident in Kansas along the way. Grandma is a lively, 91-year-old lady; only her hearing and her false teeth slow her down. Their relationship is warm, funny, and loving, but tendentious, in short — real.
Schuyler Scott Mastain looks every bit the part of a hard-muscled bike rider, as Leo; and his love and admiration for his grandma is apparent. His search, after losing both his male cross-coutry biking companion and his girlfriend comes to us slowly, but expertly, as Mastain carries this young man into finding his ground again and learning the value of his family ties.
Vera is portrayed by Dee Maaske with vivacity and élan and that certain something that only comes with the experience of living. She is the grandmother anyone would love to have. Between Maaske and Mastain, there are great moments of drama, both contentious and loving; and the scene where he tells her how his friend died is a treasure.
Arielle Yoder plays Leo’s girlfriend, Bec; and she may well give us more of a character than the script gave her to work with. She built the part with minimal help from the author. Leo’s date Amanda is made marvelously air-headed by Sehee Lee, whose comic touch is deft and snappy, and turns on a dime when faced with Leo’s aged grandmother unexpectedly.
This is a nice springtime entertainment, mixing family, humor and tenderness into a sweet pastel.
SECOND OPINION: April 6th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article17531399.html and April 3rd mini-preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article17011970.html; April 6th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=7361; April 1st Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel (student newspaper) preview by Sarah McQuillan: http://www.dailytarheel.com/blog/canvas/2015/04/400-miles-preview; April 1st Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/playmakers-4000-miles/Event?oid=4343601; and April 1st Chapel Hill, NC WCHL/Chapelboro interview with director Desdemona Chiang, conducted by Aaron Keck: http://chapelboro.com/news/arts/playmakers-travels-4000-miles/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the March 30th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2015/03/grandson-and-grandmother-find-common-ground-in-amy-herzogs-2012-obie-winner-4000-miles/.)
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents 4000 MILES at 7:30 p.m. April 7-10, 2 and 7:30 p.m. April 11, 2 p.m. April 12, 7:30 p.m. April 14-18, and 2 p.m. April 19 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 120 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.
TICKETS: $15 and up. Click here for special ticket prices for UNC students, other college students), UNC faculty and staff, and U.S. military personnel and their immediate families.
BOX OFFICE: 919-962-PLAY (7529), email@example.com, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/single.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919-843-2311, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/groupsales.
PRC NEWS RELEASE: http://www.playmakersrep.org/media/story.aspx?id=5dbf450d-b888-4510-8a50-7f6b6abf076d.
PRESENTER: http://www.playmakersrep.org/, https://www.facebook.com/playmakersrep, https://twitter.com/playmakersrep, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayMakers_Repertory_Company, and http://www.youtube.com/user/PlayMakersRep.
PRC BLOG (Page to Stage): http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.
NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.
NOTE 2: There will be an All-Access Performance performance, with sign-language interpretation and audio description by Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7th.
NOTE 3: There will be FREE post-show discussions with members of the creative team following the show’s 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 8th, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 12th, performances.
NOTE 4: The UNC General Alumni Association will host An Evening at PlayMakers, starting at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 10th, with a preshow reception and conversation with the show’s artistic staff and continuing with the 7:30 p.m. performance of 4000 Miles. The cost is $40 for GAA members and $60 for the general public. To register, telephone 919-843-0790 or click here.
NOTE 5: There will be an Open Captioning Performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 11th (for more information, click http://playmakersrep.org/outreach/allaccess/opencaption).
NOTE 6: The Lucy Daniels Foundation and the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society will sponsor FREE post-show “Mindplay” discussions after the 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 18th, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 19th, performances.
4000 Miles (2011 Off-Broadway dramatic comedy): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/499/4000-miles (Samuel French, Inc.), http://www.lortel.org/ and http://www.lortel.org/(Internet Off-Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4000_Miles (Wikipedia).
Amy Herzog (Highland Park, NJ-born playwright): http://www.samuelfrench.com/author/257/amy-herzog (Samuel French, Inc.), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy_Herzog (Wikipedia).
Desdemona Chiang (Seattle/San Francisco-based PRC guest director): http://www.desdemona.org/blog/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/deschiang (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/deschiang (Twitter page), and https://www.playmakersrep.org/performances/embed_artist.aspx?id=ad0a2c66-4394-42bb-8912-1e0d94ddb44a (PlayMakers Repertory Company bio).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.