I wish I’d known this play was going to make me desperately miss my grandparents. I’d have brought some Kleenex.
On Sunday, Donnie and I had the pleasure of visiting Lawrenceville’s Aurora Theater to see a play called “4000 Miles.” I find this amazing for several reasons.
- We were on a date. With a sitter and everything. It was the third date we’ve had since December 31st, which might be a new post-child record for us. After years of basically neglecting our need for time away from the kids, our only resolution for 2015 was to go out once a month, as near the 15th as possible (our anniversary is on January 15th). And we’ve done it twice! (Yay, us!)
- Donnie went to a play. And I didn’t have to drag him, kicking and screaming. He read the synopsis and said, “Yeah. Sure. I’ll go.”
- He liked it. He really liked it!
The Aurora Theater is pretty easy to like. Set in Lawrenceville’s historic area, in a renovated church building, the whole atmosphere is warm, welcoming and sophisticated. I had no idea this gem was tucked into this small town, but I sure am glad we discovered it.
“4000 Miles” wasn’t shown in the main auditorium, but in the Peach State Federal Credit Union Studio, a much more intimate venue that is perfect for this production. I’m not sure if there is a technical term for the way the stage was set up, so you theater buffs forgive my ignorance. I’d never seen anything quite like it. It was somewhat like a theater in the round, but really more like a “stage sandwich.” The stage was a long rectangle stretched across the middle of the room, with three or four rows of seats running along the two long sides of it. We were on the front row, with the edge of the stage maybe thirty inches from our feet. It was a little weird at first, seeing the other half the audience looking back at you from across the set. But then I got used to it — and I think that setting really helped us melt into the story, which we found funny, touching and entirely engaging.
It’s the story of 91-year-old Vera, a grandmother living in a tiny New York apartment, who is awakened in the middle of the night by the unexpected arrival of her 21-year-old grandson, Leo. Fresh off a cross-country bike trip, he is in need of a place to stay. A few days’ stay turns into about a month, during which the two of them reconnect in humorous and emotional ways. Sometimes you aren’t sure if they want to hug or slap one another as their individual stories unfold and they become unlikely roommates.
The juxtaposition of old vs. young is poignant at times and hilarious at others, such as when Leo needs to look up a phone number and Vera pulls out the trusty Yellow Pages. At first, Leo comes across as a rather self-centered jerk, but as grandparents often do, Vera’s kindness and spunk wears off the edges and he becomes a quite likable character. Also, as the story evolves and you learn exactly why he is there, you can’t help but feel compassion for his plight.
I should warn that there is some adult language and content that might offend those sensitive to such things. There were a few blatantly sexual comments that would’ve really embarrassed me had I been there with anyone other than my husband. As he said, the more colorful language is true to what you hear from young people today, and reminiscent of the four-letter-bombs our own grandparents were known for dropping occasionally!
Vera was my favorite character, played delightfully well by Mary Lynn Owen. I was surprised to see on the playbill how young she really is, because she was an extremely convincing 91-year-old woman. Her vulnerability, wittiness and loving mannerisms were so reminiscent of my own late grandmother that my heart literally ached for her by the end of the play. Owen’s realistic portrayal reminded me of what I lost when my grandparents died, of what we all lose when we neglect the older generations of our families. How I wish I could wave a magic wand and bring them back for one more conversation, for one more hug, for one last dose of point-blank wisdom wrapped in a soft wool cardigan.
“4000 Miles” is playing through March 1st and would make a great date night or ladies’ night out with your friends. Seriously, you should go.
(And you’ll enjoy the added bonus of knowing you’re supporting our local arts community!)