4000 Miles is the distance traveled by bike from the west coast to the front door of a Greenwich Village apartment where an elderly widow welcomes in her road-weary grandson. 4000 Miles is also the title of Amy Herzog's novella of a play, which opened last week at A.C.T.
While the parent-child relationship is the stuff of much drama, Herzog unconventionally bypasses the middle generation to focus on the grandparent-grandchild relationship.
Grandma Vera is not the warm-hearted, cookie-baking type you see on T.V. Nor do she and her grandson, Leo, have the corny connection that's so often depicted when grannies are depicted at all. Under Mark Rucker's low-key direction, Herzog's play is honest and unsentimental. But it's a slight play -- short on theatrical drama. While there's something to be said for restraint, this play rolls scenically along, but really doesn't gain traction or momentum.
Even so, Susan Blommaert' performance as the octogenarian Vera is sharp and intelligent. Vera is a no-nonsense straight-shooter, a cultured Manhattanite, strong-willed and quick-witted. Blommaert's Vera holds our full attention. Refreshingly, she's neither the archetypal kindly granny nor a caricature of a curmudgeonly coot. When Leo shows up, Vera doesn't push him to call his worried mother. Her bond with her daughter is likewise cool and Leo's estrangement from his mom is something she can relate to, even though the audience never gets to go down that road.