Thursday, July 23, 2015

4000 Miles

A little gem at Olympia Little Theatre

Randy Graham as Leo and Sharry O’Hare as Vera. Photo by Austin Lang

Published in the Weekly Volcano, July 23, 2015
Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles at Olympia Little Theatre has a you-are-there feel to it. It’s a smart script with a naturalistic mix of drama and humor without bombast, and it is performed nicely by four young actors and one seasoned professional, Sharry O’Hare, who has been in more plays than Carter has little liver pills and is old enough to know what that means, yet is at least 20 years younger than the octogenarian she portrays.
Directed by Jim Patrick, 4000 Miles is an intimate portrait of the sometimes touching and often irritating relationship by a 91-year-old grandmother (Vera, played by O’Hare) and her young grandson, Leo (Randy Graham in his OLT debut). After a 4,000-mile bicycle ride from Minneapolis via Seattle, Leo shows up unexpectedly at his grandmother’s Manhattan apartment and makes himself at home with apparently no plans to ever leave or get a job or do anything but exist at her expense.
Vera is a widow. Leo recently lost his best friend, Micah, killed in a bicycling accident. He also has a somewhat estranged girlfriend, Bec (Jodie Chapin) who is now in Manhattan, and he attempts to start a relationship with another woman, Amanda (Mae DeChaine).
In comedy, drama and musicals, O’Hare never fails to thoroughly become whatever character she portrays, and she is certainly believable as the feisty old grandmother in this show. With a slumped and slowly shuffling walk, little or no makeup, and nothing other than a gray wig to hide her red hair and make her look like a spry 91-year-old, she transforms herself into Vera. If I didn’t know better I’d swear the character was written with her in mind.
Since O’Hare is such a pro and the rest of the cast members are newcomers just starting their acting careers, you might expect her to carry all the weight in this play, but Graham’s role is just as big — he actually has more stage time than O’Hare — and he is utterly believable and enjoyable as Leo. Leo is infuriatingly self-absorbed, somewhat slow on the uptake, but well-mannered. He has a big heart, good qualities that are slow to manifest. It takes all of Vera’s patience and love to bring out the best in him.
Both Chapin and DeChaine act their parts with naturalness and comfort unusual for young actors with limited experience. OLT regulars will remember Chapin as the outlandish young Sissy in a silly blonde wig in Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean. In 4000 Miles she plays a much more mature young woman and is thoroughly delightful.
It’s a small play ably directed by Patrick and presented with a nice and unobtrusive set constructed by Paul Malmberg and Chet Derry (no one credited for design) and equally simple and effective lighting by Austin Lang.
There are only four more performances, tonight, July 23, and this weekend.

4000 Miles, 7:55 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 1:55 p.m. Sunday, through July 26,Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave., NE, Olympia, tickets $10-$14, available at Yenney Music, 2703 Capital Mall Dr., Olympia, 360).786.9484,

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