Geriatric Gem: 4,000 Miles at Centaur

By Alan Hustak on April 2, 2014

Thank God for understanding grandmothers.

And thank our lucky stars for director Roy Surette’s  solid, production of Amy Herzog’s  intergenerational play, 4000 miles at the Centaur until April 20.   Essentially, the play is about blood ties, about   the relationship between Vera, a 91-year old non-judgmental grandmother (Clare Coulter) and her 21-year old  grandson, Leo. (Nathan Barrett.) 

Grandma, as it happens is  an  independent  left-wing idealist who cut her teeth during the McCarthy era.  She’s losing her hearing, she’s frail and a bit forgetful, but  still mentally tough and  perceptive,   Leo is a clumsy, sweet 21-year old stud, who  has ridden his bicycle 4,000 across the country in search of himself.  The evening opens as Leo turns up at Vera’s Manhattan apartment at 3 a.m. looking for a pit stop.  The grandson  is one of those earnest, athletic   eco-activists who, at first glance, appears to be two spokes short of a wheel.  Even his ex-girlfriend,  Bec  (Liana Montoro) can’t quite figure him out.  

4000_miles.jpgThe play is really a  poignant  conversation  in which both characters are unsure of what to say to each other,  but both know they need to listen.  As Vera, Clare Coulter is no stereotypical raging  granny or a comic Golden Girl.. She  gives us a dignified,  polished  geriatric gem of a performance.  Her  Vera  is sublime, a shrewd  woman  who has seen it all and manages to still be enthusiastic about life.  Barrett’s Leo appears a bit bewildered and low key at first,  but he is convincing as a self-indulgent, emotional shut-out.  

The two confide in one another,  squabble, smoke some pot  and enact the difficult truth of  Vera’s wisdom:  Friends, neighbors, family, lovers — all imperfect — must find a way to get along even when they don’t.  “The point is you help people,”  Vera  insists, distilling the essence of her creed, “It’s about the community, it’s not about I do what’s best for me and you do what's best for you …” 

Roy Surette has directed with a studied nonchalance that  allows the simplicity of the work to suffuse the theatre and make us aware of the distances we sometimes have to travel to reach out to those we love.  He is helped enormously by  his set designer, Barbra Matis, who has given us an overly-cluttered age-worn Village apartment. 

There are some surprising turns along the way.  A  neighbour we never see in the apartment across the way has a role to play. For some comic relief, Leo   brings Amanda,  (Li Li)  a buoyant asian he has met in a bar  back to Grandma’s living room for a one night stand.  Li Li  is a brassy live-wire  who ignites a spark with hilarious and  bittersweet consequences. 

 Liana  Montoro  never quite emerges as the disgruntled girlfriend, Bec.  But then, she doesn’t have much to work with other than a contrived spat.  The role seems to have been included as an afterthought.


Please login to post comments.

Editorial Staff

Beryl P. Wajsman

Redacteur en chef et Editeur

Alan Hustak

Senior Editor

Daniel Laprès


Robert J. Galbraith


Roy Piberberg

Editorial Artwork

Mike Medeiros

Copy and Translation

Val Prudnikov

IT Director and Web Design

Editorial Contributors
La Patrie