Amy Herzog’s poignant Pulitzer Prize finalist depicts the unlikely relationship between a 91-year-old lefty and the young lefty grandson who unexpectedly shows up at her apartment at 3 a.m. after a life-altering cross-country bike ride.
January 12 – January 29, 2017
by Amy Herzog
directed by Sarah Hunnewell
Leo Joseph-Connell – BEN SCHNICKEL
Vera Joseph – DIANA MARBURY
Bec – AMANDA GRIEMSMANN
Amanda – SAMANTHA HERRERA
MORE ABOUT THE PLAY / THE PLAYWRIGHT
About the Play
Leo, a seemingly easygoing and laid back young man, arrives on his grandmother’s Greenwich Village doorstep at 3 am, dirty and scruffy and with a heavily laden bike in tow. His 91-year-old grandmother, Vera, is bewildered and perturbed.
As the play unfolds, a beautifully rendered portrait emerges of the relationship between this unlikely pair: an older crusty lefty and a young man who, despite his outward ease, is deeply emotional fragile. Slowly, the details of his life are revealed as he begins to heal through his unlikely relationship with Vera.
4000 Miles is not a fire-breathing drama, but is the kind of theater that invites us in with its rewarding intimacy and emotional honesty. In the words of the NY Times, 4000 Miles is a “small story about a big idea: the power of compassion to heal, and by the time the play has concluded, your own capacity for empathy has been stirred, and perhaps even enriched.”
About the Playwright
Amy Herzog’s plays are informed a great deal by her life. After graduating from Yale in 2000 and completing a cross-country bike ride for Habitat for Humanity, she lived with her grandmother Leepee Joseph in Greenwich Village for six months while trying to ignite her acting career. She has said that living together in such close quarters severely tested their relationship.
Herzog’s grandmother was an old-school lefty. The playwright has speculated that, had she been born two generations earlier, she likely would have been swept into the socialist politics that enraptured her grandmother. The fact that she comes from a very political family has been a great influence on her work. While 4000 Miles isn’t overtly political, there is a philosophical bond between Leo and Vera that spans the generation gap separating them..
Herzog first gained recognition when After the Revolution – her first play to feature Vera as Leepee’s stand in – opened at the Williamstown Theatre Festival before moving to Playwrights Horizons in 2010. The next year 4000 Miles opened at Lincoln Center Theater, followed by The Great God Pan and Belleville.
AMANDA GRIEMSMANN (Bec) is thrilled to return to the HTC stage following her appearances as Nina in Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike, Sheila Birling in An Inspector Calls, Jackie Coryton in Hay Fever and Myrtle Mae Simmons in Harvey. Other favorite credits include: Steel Magnolias, Arsenic and Old Lace, Don’t Dress For Dinner, Hamlet Q1 and The Crucible. She has performed with The Lafayette Salon Series, a monthly reading series that meets at The Players Club. A special thanks to Sarah for this opportunity! Love to friends and family, physically and spiritually, for their constant support and encouragement.
SAMANTHA HERRERA (Amanda) is ecstatic to join the cast for her debut performance on the HTC stage. Growing up in Queens, she is an alumna of LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts, Hunter College, and a proud graduate of the Neighborhood Playhouse. Most recently, she has played Cunningham in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and a recurring role on the upcoming Netflix series, Iron Fist. Deepest gratitude to her family, friends, and mentors for being there every step of the way. For Sarah, in making this opportunity possible. And lastly, for all those who keep theater alive, especially in times when we need it most.
DIANA MARBURY (Vera Joseph, Set Decor) is delighted to play the colorful Vera and work with this talented group. She has appeared in more than 50 HTC productions, most recently as Grandma Kunitz in Lost in Yonkers, Barbara in Dead Accounts, Clara in Hay Fever and Betty Meeks in The Foreigner. Diana wears many hats for the company, and looks forward to putting on the director’s cap again this spring for Alarms and Excursions. She would like to dedicate her performance to her dear friends Bob Thorne and Phyllis Silverman, the latter who inspires her portrayal of Vera.
BEN SCHNICKEL (Leo Joseph-Connell) was last seen on the East End in Guild Hall’s production of All My Sons starring Alec Baldwin and Laurie Metcalf. With HTC he played Jim/Tom/Kenneth in Clybourne Park as well as Ellard Sims in The Foreigner, Miles in The Drawer Boy, Chris Foster in Becky’s New Car and Jason in Rabbit Hole. Ben is a New York-based actor whose credits there include The Butter and Egg Man, When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder?, Rabbit Hole, Six Degrees of Separation, Billy Witch, The Dreamer Examines His Pillow, An Appeal to the Woman of the House, Rent and What I Did Last Summer. A native of Minneapolis, he has also performed there at the Guthrie Theater and the Children’s Theatre Company. He received his B.F.A. in Acting from Ithaca College.
AMY HERZOG (Playwright)’s plays include After the Revolution (Lilly Award), The Great God Pan and Belleville (Susan Smith Blackburn Prize Finalist; Drama Desk Nomination). 4000 Miles won the 2012 Obie Award for the Best New American Play and was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize. Amy is a recipient of the Whiting Writers Award, the Benjamin H. Danks Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Helen Merrill, the Joan and Joseph Cullman Award for Extraordinary Creativity, and the New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award. She is an alumna of the SoHo Rep Writer/Director Lab. She has taught playwriting at Bryn Mawr and Yale.
SARAH HUNNEWELL (Director) has directed more than 30 shows for the Hampton Theatre Company. Favorites include An Inspector Calls, Time Stands Still, The Drawer Boy, Rabbit Hole, The Enchanted April, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, The Oldest Living Graduate, Fuddy Meers, Summer and Smoke, The Rainmaker and The Foreigner. Many thanks to her excellent cast and crew for their hard work on this production and to our audience members, patrons and all the people who help make our work possible.
SEAN MARBURY (Set Designer) has worked in textile design, built sets for TV series, commercials, and films and worked with the design, engineering and fabrication of race car components. He currently works on high end residential construction. His set designs for HTC include Deathtrap, Other People’s Money, Other Desert Cities, The Foreigner, Harvey, Time Stands Still and November.
SEBASTIAN PACZYNSKI (Lighting Designer) has designed all the company’s productions since 2004 as well as the theater’s lighting system. He has designed lighting for theater, dance and special events in a number of Broadway, Off Broadway, Off Off Broadway and regional venues. He has also worked in film and television as the director of photography. He has designed numerous productions for Guild Hall and for the Hamptons Shakespeare Festival.
TERESA LEBRUN (Costume Designer) is the resident costumer for HTC. She started helping with costumes in 1986 and has designed the costumes for all the company’s productions since 2005. Teresa also costumes for Center Moriches and Westhampton Beach High Schools. She is happy to be working with her dear friend Diana and this amazing cast. Much love to her boys, Josh and Noah, family and great friends.
CHRISSIE DEPIERRO (Stage Manager). To Sarah and our cast, many thanks for all your wonderful work. To all the backstage players, set design, decor, construction and lights, you make it come to life. A special thank you to Sound Tech Seamus Naughton for his endless patience and knowledge in each production. All my love to Kristopher, Theresa, Matthew and Samantha, my brightest shining stars.
MARYAM (Rob) DOWLING (Lighting & Sound Technician) has done lighting and sound for 23 years with various theater groups on the East End. Maryam has also helped Sebastian with lighting setup at Guild Hall, the Ross School, and other local venues. This is Maryam’s eighth season with the Hampton Theatre Company and she is very happy to be part of the show and the company.
JULIA MORGAN ABRAMS (House Manager). After retiring from the legal department of Bristol Myers Squibb, Julia began a second career as a volunteer, initially for Literacy Suffolk, HTC and the Southampton Animal Shelter, where she wrote grants and worked in fundraising. She continues to write grants and help with marketing for several local nonprofits. Julia would like to thank all of her dedicated House Assistants for their continued support.
Director – SARAH HUNNEWELL
Set Design – SEAN MARBURY
Lighting Design – SEBASTIAN PACZYNSKI
Set Decor – DIANA MARBURY
Costume Design – TERESA LEBRUN
Stage Manager – CHRISSIE DEPIERRO
Set Construction – SEAN MARBURY, CARLOS BUENO, LUIS CHAVAC, MATTHEW CONLON, ANA GARCIA, ROMANO GUINAN, MICHAEL MORONEY, SEAMUS NAUGHTON, WILSON PRELLES
Sound Design – JAMES EWING & SARAH HUNNEWELL
Lighting/Sound Tech – MARYAM DOWLING, SEAMUS NAUGHTON
Box Office – LISA CARR
Production Graphics – JOE PALLISTER (DESIGNINGJOE)
House Manager – JULIA MORGAN ABRAMS
Production Photographer – TOM KOCHIE
DINNER AND THEATER PACKAGES:
The Hampton Theatre Company, in conjunction with our local libraries, offers special Dinner and Theater Packages which offer wonderful evenings at terrific prices.
There are three packages available for 4000 MILES.
The Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton and the Westhampton Free Library in Westhampton Beach are offering a package on Friday, January 13. Dinner is at The Patio
in Westhampton Beach at 5 pm, followed by the show at 7 pm. The cost for dinner (including tax and tip) and show is $60. To reserve, please send your check, for $60 per person, to Hampton Theatre Company, PO Box 400, Quogue, NY 11959. Please include your name, address, phone number and email address if you have one so that we may email you your tickets.
The Hampton Bays Public Library is offering a package on Thursday, January 26. Dinner is at 1 North Steakhouse
in Hampton Bays at 5 pm, followed by the show at 7 pm. The cost for the dinner (including tax and tip) and show is $60. To register, please call the Hampton Bays Library at 631-728-6241.
The Quogue Library is offering a package on Friday, January 27. Dinner is at The Quogue Club
at 5 pm, followed by the show at 7 pm. The cost for dinner (including tax and tip) and show is $70. To register, please call the Quogue Library at 631-653-4224 ext. 101. The Quogue Library package is available first to library members. If space is available, others may participate as well.
A Heartfelt Journey Toward Manhood in HTC’s “4000 Miles”
by Beth Young (East End Beacon)
I don’t usually leave a theatrical performance feeling full and satisfied—it’s far more likely that I’ll be unsettled (in a good way), excited or perturbed about something I’ve witnessed. But after leaving Hampton Theatre Company’s performance of Amy Herzog’s “4000 Miles” Friday evening, I felt like I’d gone home, confronted my own family drama, and learned something good and soothing about human nature. And all I’d done was spend nearly two hours in a darkened theater.
This play, about a young man named Leo who embarks on a cross-country bicycle trip to meet up with his girlfriend in New York, only to end up on his grandmother’s doorstep when his girlfriend refuses to see him, is a real gem.
The writing is understated, but encompassing of volumes about human nature, and this tight, four-person cast, under the able direction of HTC President Sarah Hunnewell, does a fine job of conveying the breadth of a traumatic cross-country voyage, of death and of coming-of-age, without ever leaving the confines of the set of a Greenwich Village apartment.
The time is September of 2007, a strangely optimistic moment in American history just before the economic meltdown that changed the trajectory of the next decade for many young people Leo’s age.
Ms. Herzog knows her subject matter—she had embarked on a cross-country bicycle trip for Habitat for Humanity shortly after graduating from Yale in 2000, and then lived with her grandmother in Greenwich Village for six months while making a go of an acting career.
But what struck me about this play is this female playwright’s depth of insight into the character of a young man trying to understand his place in a world where traditional definitions of manhood are becoming a rarity, and there is little guidance for how to be a man in a world. Leo, the only male character in this play, finds that strength in a quite unlikely place.
Actor Ben Schnickel as Leo brings a lot to this coming-of-age story, arriving on his grandmother’s doorstep as a sweaty, half-snickering, occasionally conflicted freeloader, who spends his early days rock-climbing in a nearby gym, digging in a community garden, taking home a loose woman, and smoking pot with his grandmother, but then finds his way to his true feelings about the death and deception he’s witnessed among his friends and family.
Diana Marbury, who has had quite a run lately of choice grandmotherly roles at HTC in last winter’s “Dead Accounts” and last spring’s “Lost in Yonkers,” has a ball with her role as grandma Vera, a widowed and forgetful communist who had let her dead husband do much of the political talk. But she is sharp about human nature and she is a blessing to her step-grandson.
Amanda Griemsmann, who’s had a run of recent good and varied roles on the HTC stage, plays Leo’s sullen outdoorsy girlfriend Bec, unimpressed by Vera’s decades-old conceptions of feminism, who sees through all of Leo’s childish insecurities but loves him anyway. She turns in a fine performance.
Samantha Herrera, the aforementioned loose woman, Amanda, whom Leo takes home, only appears on stage for a few brief minutes, but in those minutes she serves as a shorthand for a great big city filled with superficial dreams and hearts dulled by alcohol and ambition.
She takes the cake home with her… leaving Leo, a heart-naked mountain man in a bright red flannel shirt, alone with his grandma in a rare safe quarter of a city without a heart.
A well-appointed set is a must for any Hampton Theatre Company production. The precise but apparently random placement of tchotchkes throughout the living room set, and the doorway at the back of the stage that leads to the guest bedroom where Vera waited on her husband’s deathbed and still sleeps in a single bed, work to create a sense of home, thanks to set decor and design by Diana and Sean Marbury.
The coordination of yellow stage light with the turning on of lamps on stage was also an understated but very nice touch.
Tasty finger style guitar interludes between the set changes did a wonderful job of setting the mood—you could almost hear the chatter and clatter of dishes accompanying a live performance in the increasingly rare confines of a Greenwich Village folk club.
There is no intermission in this play, but unless you are especially infirm, you will not miss it. You’ll have to trust me when I tell you that an hour and forty-five minutes of cross-generational conversation in the confines of a New York City apartment does not drag one bit.
Characters tenderly go the distance
by Steve Parks (Newsday)
Leo, a 21-year-old lefty—“Marx was cool,” he says, and he doesn’t mean Groucho—did not need training wheels to bike 4,000 miles to see Grandma, a fellow lefty nearly 70 years his senior. But he’s still on training wheels in life.
Vera and Leo are emotionally needy as we meet them in Amy Herzog’s critically embraced Off-Broadway play “4000 Miles,” making its Long Island premiere, tenderly directed by Sarah Hunnewell for the Hampton Theatre Company. Pulitzer jurists made “4000 Miles” a 2013 finalist for drama. The prize went to “Disgraced,” Ayad Ahktar’s explosive play about a Muslim-American’s identity crisis.
Nothing so dramatic as a crisis occurs in this character-driven play in which not much happens beyond conversation and a kiss. The power of Herzog’s play lies in compassion disguised as listening.
At the end of a harrowing transcontinental trek, Leo shows up at Vera’s Greenwich Village apartment, rendered with a touch of the past by Sean Marbury. Averse to cellphones, Leo hasn’t called his mother. He was to have been accompanied on the odyssey by his three best friends. Injury sidelined one young woman while Bec, his girlfriend, backed out citing personal and academic excuses. Leo and his buddy started out from Seattle. But Micah died in Kansas.
Diana Marbury plays Vera with a feisty, grudging acceptance of the reality of advanced age. Her body and sometimes her mind—“I just hate it when I can’t find my words”—remind her constantly. All her friends and both husbands are dead. Her stepdaughter’s family, including Leo, live in Minnesota. Marbury, through body language and a faltering struggle to express frustrations and spout opinions, lets us feel for Vera even as she repels pity.
Ben Schnickel as Leo, whose career so far is finding himself, exudes a cocky assurance that masks insecurities and a sense of loss he shares with Vera. Of his grandmother, he says to a girl he tries to bed (deliciously drunk as played by Samantha Herrera), “She’s like a really good friend I happen to be related to.” That’s after Bec breaks the news to Leo that they’re breaking up, conflictedly delivered by Amanda Griemsmann.
Grandma and grandson trade stories about their sex lives over marijuana, and Leo reveals stark details about the bicycle tragedy. Even this traumatic monologue is leavened by the funniest line in this endearingly human play.
“4000 Miles” And What Happens Next in Quogue
Handled with deftness and polish
by Jennifer Landes (East Hampton Star)
It has become trite and almost insulting to revel in the quality of the Hampton Theatre Company’s productions, which are clearly some of the finest community
theater around, here or anywhere. After years of well-received presentations and full houses, it would be better to take it as a given that whatever the group tackles will be handled with deftness and polish.
The company’s latest play, “4000 Miles,” matches Amy Herzog’s Pulitzer nominated and Obie-winning text with the versatile acting chops of some of the company’s regulars and with Samantha Herrera’s first HTC appearance.
It is Sarah Hunnewell’s direction and the acting of the four principals, in a well designed set that never changes, which creates the chemistry that brings this dramatic comedy alive and draws us in. It is the award-winning writing that stays with us on the drive home.
The play opens with the 3 a.m. arrival of Leo at his grandmother Vera’s Greenwich Village apartment. She is hard of hearing and doesn’t have her teeth in yet. It’s clear he hasn’t called ahead to announce his arrival after a cross-country bicycle trip.
She is startled, but warm nonetheless. Not quite doting, and not quite encouraging to him to stay, she still seems fine with the possibilities this situation presents. After commanding him to take a shower, she sets him up in the guest bedroom, and it’s immediately apparent that he will stay, at least long enough to let his and her story unfold.
It is quickly revealed that Leo has been out of touch with his friends and family, a significant anomaly in the setting of 2007, the year Apple released its first smartphone. Vera tells him his mother is looking for him. We also learn that his girlfriend, Bec, who attends college in the city, was not happy to see him when he visited her earlier that night.
We gradually discover that Leo has experienced a great tragedy as he made his way across the country, one that left him determined to finish the journey but aimless now that it is over. He needs to regain some measure of routine and purpose in his life, which becomes the leitmotif of the play, along with the significance of family. There is also a vague Marxist subtext.
Ben Schnickel and Diana Marbury, who play Leo and Vera, telegraph a prickly but sympathetic relationship. They turn out not to be relatives in the strict sense, but family members in the best sense. Amanda Griemsmann, who plays Bec, has a small and somewhat thankless role, but manages to make her performance memorable and critical in the mix of relationships and events that push Leo forward. Ms. Herrera seems to be having the most fun of all with her portrayal of Amanda, a mercurial and quirky art student whom Leo brings to the apartment for a fling.
Sean Marbury’s set delivers exactly what one would expect in a nonagenarian’s rent-controlled West Village flat. Painted a faded bilious green, it has the well tended but worn look of grandmas’ houses everywhere. The rotary wall phone is a brilliant touch, particularly when Vera dials a number. Clearly, we have stepped into an environment that technology has ignored or left behind.
The lighting design, by Sebastian Paczynski, not only helps set the emotional tone of the play but functions almost as another character, and Teresa Lebrun’s costume designs are adroit in rounding out the actors’ identities. The fancy black ensembles Vera dons for funerals speak to the stylishness that never leaves some city women, even if they are 90, widows of Marxists, or old lefties themselves. Bec immediately reads as both student and outdoorsy, and Amanda looks pulled straight from the nightclub where Leo obviously found her.
It’s always unnerving to be told before a play begins that there will be no intermission, particularly when it runs close to two hours. As a friend of mine likes to say, it’s because the presenters are afraid they will lose everyone at the break. That is not the case here. Although there is an obvious break in the text, the play builds on the emotional intimacy and understanding between grandmother and
grandson, and an interruption might sever the emerging threads that connect them to each other. That would be unfortunate in such a layered and poignant story.
Generations Clash In Tender ‘4000 Miles’
by Lorraine Dusky (The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press)
There are moments in Hampton Theatre Company’s production of “4000 Miles” that evoked memories of interactions with my mother—her wonder at new technology, her increasing frailty, her surprising revelations, introducing her to marijuana, and with some chagrin but most poignantly, the exasperation I felt after a visit of several days.
Playwright Amy Herzog has these generational clashes and exchanges down as fittingly as a cozy comforter on an antique bed. Rather than mother and child, the two characters whose relationship sustains the drama are a 91-year-old grandmother, Vera Joseph, and her 20-something grandson Leo, a floundering millennial trying to figure out what’s next.
At the moment, he’s rather on the run from making adult decisions—he’s dropped out of college, is at the tail end of a romantic relationship, and is literally racing away from an incident where he proved to be less than a stand-up guy. Reeking and filthy, he shows up in the middle of the night at his grandmother’s Greenwich Village apartment in need of a shower, a bed and cash. He’s just cycled cross country from Seattle.
Grandma Vera takes him in, few questions asked. She is an old leftie who is ready to give him the space and distance he needs while he figures out his life. A stalwart mainstay of the Quogue company, Diana Marbury as Vera draws a vivid, engaging portrait of a still feisty widow near the end of her life. Her existence is normally filled with quotidian acts such as the laundry and checking on her neighbor across the hall to make sure if they go “toes up,” the other will call the ambulance before the odor informs everyone in the building. Always competent in the many performances local audiences have seen her in, Ms. Marbury just may have found the role of her life. She shuffles, she’s in need of her hearing aid and her teeth, but she’s also the grandma that everyone wishes to have.
Ben Schnickel as grandson Leo is harder to appreciate precisely because he is so unfocused. While that vacant quality suffuses his performance nearly to the point of the adult audience’s exasperation—they are, er, largely seniors who winter here—a Gen Y or millennial still in search of the meaning of life will get him. Grandparents dealing with their own Leo-like grandchildren may find the play both enlightening and gently humorous.
As the scenes unfold—10 of them without intermission—we learn he’s been out of touch with his family in St. Paul, and his girlfriend (Amanda Griemsmann) is breaking up with him. He’s so hapless he can’t even carry off a one-night stand with the vivacious rich girl he brings home one night.
New to the company, Samantha Herrera is hilarious in her single scene as the self-described wealthy and slutty art student (at Parsons, where else?)
But the reveal at the heart of the play that should give it heft is by itself insubstantial and feels added for dramatic effect alone, not as a natural or surprising tragedy. Leo’s act of omission on the bike trip—not attending the funeral of his friend who was going cross-country with him—is not big enough to carry the weight the script foists upon it. How his friend died is itself absurdist and you can’t decide whether to laugh or not, for after all, his friend is dead. When he fesses up to Vera about what happened, you are left wondering: Is that all there is?
Even Sarah Hunnewell’s scrupulous direction of a play that certainly has its tender moments couldn’t cover up this hole at its center. Consequently, Leo’s redeeming act a scene or two later doesn’t seem to matter much as he begins to get his life together, starting with finding a job.
Ah, the set. Once again the mother-and-son team of Sean Marbury (set design) and his mother Diana (décor) have concocted a totally believable Greenwich Village apartment of someone who’s been there for eons—books, a mashup of art work, a radiator, a ’60s-style peace symbol, a wall phone with a long cord, well-worn cozy furniture, an end table that looks like it belongs to the tramp school. All perfect.
Though the awards and accolades have been piled on “4000 Miles”—a 2012 Obie for Best New American Play, finalist for a Pulitzer in 2013—this is one critic whose vote it wouldn’t have gotten. Though at times evocative, “4000 Miles” is much ado about not much.
FROM SUNRISE HIGHWAY (ROUTE-27):
Sunrise Highway (Route 27) to exit 64S (Rte. 104 to Quogue). Rte. 104 South (approx. 3 miles) to Montauk Highway (Rte. 80). Right onto Montauk Highway to light at Otis Ford (1 mile). Left onto Jessup Avenue. 1/2 mile to theater (on right).
FROM MONTAUK HIGHWAY (ROUTE-80):
Montauk Highway to light at Otis Ford in Quogue. South onto Jessup Avenue. 1/2 mile to theater (on right).
PARKING & ACCESSIBILITY
PARKING: There is limited street parking around the theater as well as a parking lot that can be entered just north of the Quogue Community Hall.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: The theater is wheelchair accessible through the side entrance. If a member of your party needs wheelchair access, please come to front entrance and ask the person taking tickets to open the side door. If a member of your party requires a wheelchair in the theater, please reserve one seat at the end of a row.
ASSISTED LISTENING DEVICES: The theater does not have assisted listening devices at this time.