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4,000 MILES: A LONG WAY TO GO, BUT IN BTF’s PRODUCTION AT THE UNICORN, AN EASY TRIP WELL WORTH MAKING

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BY DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI ARTS

A review of 4,000 Miles by Amy Herzog, now running through June 1 at the Berkshire Theatre Festival’s Unicorn Theater, Stockbridge. Cast: Evan Silverstein (Leo), Gabriela Torres (Bec), Alison Ye (Amanda), and Maria Tucci (Vera). Directed by Lizzie Gottlieb. 1 hour, 50 minutes, no intermission. Box office 413-997-4444. BerkshireTheatreGroup.org. PLANET RATING, 0 to 5 stars: ****1/2

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY MAY 20, 2024) — Family.

Talk about a loaded word.

Everyone has one, comes from one, has one to embrace or escape. Family is the bind that ties, an adaptable stricture that can be a straight jacket of meddling or provide safe harbor to keep one from drifting. Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles presents a family as both. Can there be any other truthful depiction?

Twenty-one-year-old Leo Joseph-Connell (Evan Silverstein) knocks unexpectedly on the door of Vera Joseph, his 91-year-old-grandmother (Maria Tucci). It’s 3 a.m., and he’s just completed a 4000-mile bike trip from Seattle to Vera’s NYC apartment in the West Village. The lad has lost his best friend, is in the middle of a romantic breakup, and estranged from his suffocating mother, Vera’s daughter. Leo is where so many of us are, were, or will be at 21–in the middle of a whirlpool, lost in a confusion of identity and an ebb-tide of love and loss whose tidal pull threatens to drag him out to sea, where he will hear distant voices and drown.

———- ooo ———

Maria Tucci as Vera. Photos courtesy of BTF.

Leo arrives for the most pragmatic reason: He has nowhere else to go. As Robert Frost observed, home is the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in. He tells an irritated Vera he only plans to stay the night, but his grandmother, quickly softening up to her unexpected visitor, has other plans. She “goes full grandma” on him, washing his clothes, giving him money, feeding him. It’s a welcoming he can’t refuse. The one night turns into a month, a transformative four weeks where the 70-year age gap proves as distant and as near, as sad and fulfilling, as his 4,000-mile Via Dolorosa, a trip begun as a get-away from his mother in St. Paul and ending in the West Village. On the journey, he’s lost his best friend in a horrific road accident with a truck.

Leo’s alone but not more so than his feisty grandmother, whose years of isolating widowhood have left her with the worst kind of self-sufficiency, that of a survivor’s resignation. This solitary woman has settled into the fugue state of routine, distanced from the world by old age and the outside’s headlong rush toward the technocracy, where pace knows only one state: faster.

While Vera has stayed still, the world has gotten itself in a blurring hurry. She has a Mac laptop but doesn’t know how to use it. There’s no smart phone in the apartment. Instead, we see a ’70s-era wall phone in Partridge-Family olive green. Only the orange countertops are missing. Leo gets the computer going and Vera as well. He knows the password for both. Confessions of loneliness bring this odd couple together, and we witness a mutual healing based on openness and vulnerability whose intersection defines trust.

———- ooo ———-

4,000 Miles is what THE PLANET calls a “casting play.” Sure, all theatrical productions live or die in the acting, but the focus on performance intensifies in what is essentially a two-person play. It’s first-rate writing that can be acted badly. Having a drama hang on the relationship between a 21 year old and a 91 year old looks good on paper, brimming with possibilities. There’s no room for mediocre, serviceable, or even good performances. It needs two lead actors capable of and delivering brilliance.

Fortunately, Gottlieb has Tucci and Silverstein. She knows what to do with them.

4,000 Miles, an intimate exploration of relationships and healing, finds a perfect setting in the closeness/nearness of the Unicorn, at the top of THE PLANET‘s list of local venues. The 70-year age difference alone sets up a few ripe, low-hanging situations, and Gottlieb picks every one–shattering, comedic, nostalgic, bruising, argumentative, consoling.

Evan Silverstein as Leo.

Tucci, an old pro’s old pro with 14 Broadway credits, at 83 has to punch 8 years above her age. No problem. She squeezes every stiff movement of its aches, turns each step into a shuffling walk, and parses the idiom out of each syllable and phrase. What remains hangs as an atmosphere, a redolence, in the apartment set as a kind of prop in itself. Everything old stands in sharp contrast with the lithe moves of youth.

Silverstein, back for the second time at the BTF (The Goat or Who is Sylvia?), bursts into rooms, drops to the couch as if he’s doing a reverse belly flop. He doesn’t rise but catapults out of a chair. His Leo embodies impetuous, infuriating, intransigent, introspective, inundated, indubitable but ultimately invaluable youth.

Leo’s not the child he used to be, but he’s yet to become the adult that lies in wait. He possesses a treasure, youth, of which he cannot be aware, for at each moment, he’s literally the oldest he’s ever been.

What at first might pass as nuance turns out to be the shifting positions of his rootlessness. He’ll go. He’ll stay. He doesn’t want money. Oh, okay, he’ll take some cash. That’s evidence of Silverstein’s astute penetration into the character he’s portraying. Tucci’s Vera is there for him as a fixed point, a kind of North Star from which Leo will ultimately find not just the other three directions but his direction in life. He will find his Self himself.

———- ooo ———-

As the play works through its 110 minutes, Tucci and Silverstein carve out of their contrasts a yin and yang that by play’s end forms a perfect circle. Her forgetfulness borders on dementia. He fills in the blanks. His rootlessness approaches being cast adrift. She serves as an anchor. Technology has left her behind. He’s been so immersed in the blasted stuff that he’s okay if he goes screen-less for the rest of his life.

Gabriela Torres and Maria Tucci.

The play’s most affecting moment comes when Leo unburdens himself to his grandmother. Tucci sits on the couch saying nothing while Silverstein delivers Leo’s soliloquy of woe. Through a downward expression of wistfulness, not just of knowledge but of Knowing, Tucci makes one realize that she’s doing the talking. It’s her grandson, with his word salad, who’s doing the listening. What a great moment.

Through osmosis, you get the feeling that she’s absorbing the energy of youth’s crazy optimism while he’s taking in her stoicism and the ability to endure. Thus, when Leo’s on-again off-again girlfriend Bec (Gabriella Torres) tells him they have to break up, the kid can handle it in an adult manner.

Torres’ Bec torments Leo with her relationship complaints. Silverstein’s look of “men-are-from-mars-women-are-from-venus” bafflement steals those scenes. Every guy who’s ever had a girl knows the feeling.

Torres does a good job, except for the need to slow down. The young actress seems to equate anger with speed, leading to a delivery of lines at times robbed of fullness and, at times, indecipherable. It might be a case of nerves, but the edginess can shoehorn in with her exasperated tone. It’s a tight fit.

Allison Ye.

One night Leo brings to the apartment a pick-up, Amanda, adeptly played by Allison Ye just short of over the top. She’s an oversexed ditz with the depth of a communion wafer and the appeal of a fantasist.

Amanda too is the playwright’s lament on how far the world has come (pun intended) since Vera’s days at a late teen. Being a 19-year-old girl in 2007 (the play’s time period) and 1937 alludes to an enormous gap in morals into which the old way of life tumbles and falls to the canyon floor, like Wile E. Coyote, with a splat.

The plunge gets delightful treatment when Vera enters the living room while Leo and Amanda are just about to “do it.” She bids a hasty, self-conscious retreat. It’s one of the play’s several comic moments.

Ultimately, Amanda rejects Leo because he may be a communist. See, she finds a communist tract in the bookshelf, and, upon grilling, Leo admits his grandparents were once fellow travelers. Yes, that’s Amanda’s “depth.”

Perfect length, a brilliant cast, a touching and thoughtful play. THE PLANET highly recommends this engaging production.

—————————————————————–

Memory, where is thy youth, that used to say that love is truth?” — Thomas Hardy.

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

Copyright (c) 2024 By Dan Valenti, PLANET VALENTI and EUROPOLIS MANAGEMENT. All rights reserved. The views and opinions expressed in the comment section or in the text other than those of PLANET VALENTI are not necessarily endorsed by the operators of this website. PLANET VALENTI assumes no responsibility for such views and opinions, and it reserves the right to remove or edit any comment, including but not limited to those that violate the website’s Rules of Conduct and its editorial policies. Those who leave comments own all the responsibilities that are or can be attached to those comments, be they rhetorical, semantic, or legal. Such commentators remain solely responsible for what they post and shall be and remain solely accountable for their words. PLANET VALENTI shall not be held responsible for the consequences that may result from any posted comment or outside opinion or commentary as provided in, but not limited to, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and this website’s terms of service. We serve as a marketplace of ideas, without prejudice and available to all. All users of this site — including readers, commentators, contributors, or anyone else — hereby agree to these conditions by virtue of this notice and their use of/participation in this site. When PLANET VALENTI ends with the words “The Usual Disclaimer,” that phrase shall be understood to refer to the full text of this disclaimer.

 

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Clair De Luune
Clair De Luune
24 days ago

The laziest form of entertainment.

Jon Melle
Jon Melle
24 days ago

But North Street was supposedly wonderful in 1937?

Eric Swansin
Eric Swansin
Reply to  Jon Melle
24 days ago

Not for the LBGTQ crowd you’re apart of Jonathan. The North Street shoppers of the 30’s wouldn’t have gone for an openly gay mayor and a guy looking to open an LBGTQ clothing friendly store on North Street. I don’t think they were ready for your tuck friendly swimwear back then.

That girl
That girl
24 days ago

I think this is one of the best theater stage acting I’ve ever seen. The acting was so good that I felt as if we were eavesdropping. The situations were personal and believable for today’s lifestyle. She portrayed an elderly woman so accurately in both the way she carried herself physically and how she cared for her grandson. it’s definitely worth viewing.

Pat
Pat
24 days ago

This sounds like an excellent play. The grandson trying to find his true “self” used to be the goal of most young people. Now it seems like that process has been either seriously slowed down or even stopped completely by an educational system that keeps many young people worrying more about political agendas than discovering their true selves. Instead of being exposed to many different ideas, our educational system is keeping young people stuck in one way of looking at the world. Growing up is more confusing than ever. So glad I’m not a young person trying to find my way in such a restrictive environment.

Jonathan A. Melle
Jonathan A. Melle
24 days ago

May 20, 2024

Good old Massachusetts has one of the highest prices for groceries in the U.S.A.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-13438583/State-inflation-grocery-prices-meat.html

Billionaire John Forbes Kerry’s HOT AIR is NOT helping the fictional Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski working-class family who lives in Pittsfield and has working-class cousins in Boston be able to afford to buy groceries in Massachusetts.

Jon Melle

Jonathan A. Melle
Jonathan A. Melle
24 days ago

Nuciforo tried to jail me 26 years ago on May 20th, 1998:

May 20, 2024

26 years ago today, then Pittsfield (Massachusetts) State Senator and now a disgraced former politician who newspapers have called FRINGE, MEAN-SPIRITED, and alleged has deep pocket unknown investors in his marijuana business named “Berkshire Roots” tried to put me – Jon Melle – in jail. Andrea Francesco Nuciforo Junior – aka LUCIFORO; aka Pittsfield’s Pot King (of lawsuits) – told the Pittsfield Police Department FALSE allegations that I was making “veiled” threats towards him. In fact, it was “Luciforo” who was the one who was conspiratorially and directly bullying and threatening me for 2 years back then. Prior to this event when I was 22 years old, Nuciforo filed multiple state “ethics” complaints – THE IRONY of Nuciforo filing state “ethics” complaints: given that Nuciforo ended up being an allegedly illegal double dipper as Chair of the State Senate Finance Committee while at the same time serving as counsel to Boston’s big banks and insurance companies from 1999 – 2006, according to the Boston Globe’s news article in early-2007 – against my dad, Bob (who will turn 80 years old this Summer 2024), when my dad, Bob, served as an elected Berkshire County Commissioner (1997 – mid-2000) and was an Assistant Chief Probation Officer (1970 – 2002) in the Pittsfield District Courthouse. Nuciforo tried to get me dad fired from his courthouse position and force his resignation from the Berkshire County Commission, but fortunately for my dad, Bob, and I, Nuciforo’s persecutions of us were ineffective.

Nuciforo had to resign from his elected position in the State Senate in 2006 due to his alleged illegal double dipping. In 2006, Nuciforo strong-armed two women candidates – Sharon Henault and Sara Hathaway (who was a former Pittsfield Mayor by then; and she was a former aide to Nuciforo, too) – out of the state government so-called election to anoint himself Pittsfield Registrar of Deed, which as a no-show state plum that he served in for 6 years until 2012. In 2012, Nuciforo campaign for the elected position of U.S. House of Representatives to oust the now-late Congressman John W. Olver, who ended up retiring due to redistricting back then. Nuciforo challenged Congressman – aka PAC Man – Richie Neal in 2012, but Nuciforo lost to Richie Neal by 40 percentage points in the 2012 Democratic Party primary election back then. Nuciforo’s disgraced political career was finally over – THANK GOD!

In March 2017, Nuciforo started his marijuana business named “Berkshire Roots” Nuciforo used his political connections in both Pittsfield and Boston, along with the deep pockets of unknown investors, to be one of the first people to receive pot permits in Massachusetts new marijuana industry. Nuciforo’s Pittsfield Pot Kingdom on Dalton Avenue in Pittsfield stinks up nearby residential neighborhoods with dead-skunk-like odors on a daily basis. Nuciforo himself does not live near his Dalton Avenue Pittsfield Pot Kingdom, but instead, Nuciforo lives in a mansion in Pittsfield’s elitist Gated Community neighborhood west of Berkshire Community College. Last Summer 2023, Nuciforo filed a lawsuit in Pittsfield’s Superior Court suing the City of Pittsfield over the $440,000 in HCAs fees he paid for his pot permits. Nuciforo recently filed a second pot lawsuit in Boston’s Superior Court to challenge state law in favor of marijuana workers’ right to be in unions in Massachusetts. Nuciforo has made many millions of dollars from his marijuana businesses, but he is so greedy that he is suing the City of Pittsfield over his HCAs payments for pot permits from many years ago now, along with him trying to bust unions in the state’s marijuana workforce.

In closing, let us all remember the date of May 20th, 1998, when Nuciforo tried to jail me – Jon Melle – as an event that symbolizes the EVIL person that “Luciforo” truly is!

Jonathan Alan Melle

Markus Aurelius
Markus Aurelius
Reply to  Jonathan A. Melle
24 days ago

This day is now circled on my calendar.

Any advice on how to celebrate your “freedom from persecution?”

The USA celebrates its independence every July 4th, with parades, cookouts, family gatherings, etc.

Nuciforo and the marijuana sellers/smokers celebrate every 4/20, with BOGO offerings at dispensaries, smoke out sessions; just to give you a few ideas on how we should celebrate every 5/20 in the future.

Last edited 24 days ago by Markus Aurelius
100 percent
100 percent
24 days ago

Now say you ain’t BFF’s w/ Fredrik Rutenberger.

Shittsfield
Shittsfield
24 days ago

Free show on North street and its environs daily, in shittsfield .

Sebastian
Sebastian
Reply to  Shittsfield
24 days ago

Eating outside Marketplace is like an interactive dinner theater experience.

12 Gauge
12 Gauge
Reply to  Sebastian
24 days ago

Yes, interacting with traffic makes for a great meal.

ShirleyKnutz
ShirleyKnutz
Reply to  12 Gauge
23 days ago

I believe Sebastian was talking about the “characters of NON” and the fact you have to tip the bully of the houseless that argues with you when you don’t give him some of your hard earned cash

Illegal Aliens
Illegal Aliens
24 days ago

Colombian national convicted of murder was erroneously released by ICE. He was arrested in Pittsfield

By Greg Sukiennik, The Berkshire Eagle
ICE’s Boston Enforcement and Removal Operations office apprehended Efrain Vargas “near his residence” in Pittsfield on May 6.

Pat
Pat
Reply to  Illegal Aliens
24 days ago

This is news across the country, but the local media only let everybody know about it today. No shock there. Trump is right again. Other countries are sending their dangerous prisoners over here. This guy was serving a 17 year sentence for murder in Columbia starting in 2016, but somehow ended up here in Pittsfield. This incident proves that our country can’t keep track of the massive number of illegals crossing our border. This puts everyone in our country in danger.

ShirleyKnutz
ShirleyKnutz
Reply to  Pat
23 days ago

Did you hear about the Biden sham case against Trump in NY? I guess the judge got upset when Trumps first witness started to actually tell the truth on the stand, unlike the prosecutions liars they put on the stand, so he yelled at the witness and sent the jury out, he didn;t think they “could handle the truth”! I can’t believe this is the America we live in. We currently have a crime boss as pres who has issued more dictorial edicts bypassing congress and committing quid pro quo against congresses law and he gets away with it, heck people are still singing his praises…..how Kooky will America become? Will we all have to be brainwashed like Snark,TSC,etc? Reminds of an Orwell book.

Pat
Pat
Reply to  ShirleyKnutz
23 days ago

Yes, the whole trial is a sham. Michael Cohen admitted he had stolen money from Trump and that’s actually a far bigger crime than the charges brought against Trump.

Empty Jails
Empty Jails
Reply to  Illegal Aliens
23 days ago

Maybe thousands more out there just like him

12 Gauge
12 Gauge
24 days ago

Rhonda Sere likes to hear herself talk.

Joe Curtis is full of bull shit.

12 Gauge
12 Gauge
24 days ago

Now level 5 Joe wants electric busses. Has this clown actually done any research on the subject? He understands technology at the Stone Age level.

Jonathan A. Melle
Jonathan A. Melle
24 days ago

Please Google: joe biden in merrimack veterans event and nashua ymca

On Tuesday, May 21st, 2024, non-Veteran (due to Asthma) Joe Biden will hold a Veterans’ event in Merrimack, NH, and then he will go to the Nashua, NH, YMCA, and then he will go to Boston, Massachusetts.

I am a 100 percent service-connected total and permanently disabled Veteran who lives next to Merrimack and very close to Nashua. I would like to ask the sitting U.S. President:

* Why is your Secretary of the VA the first non-Veteran to sit there in U.S. history?

* Why did your administration move the VA travel department to a non-VA federal agency that is no longer paying for VA Community Care authorized appointments at non-medical facilities?

* Why are New Hampshire and Alaska the only two states in the nation without a full service VA hospital?

* Why are homeless Veterans not being given priority over illegal immigrants homeless people and families for Emergency Shelter?

* Did Donald Trump do a better job serving Veterans than you?

* How are you addressing the VA problems, issues and care?

Jonathan A. Melle

ShirleyKnutz
ShirleyKnutz
Reply to  Jonathan A. Melle
23 days ago

My question to you, when are you voting Republican?? You voted for these clowns

Ghost of Pearl Bergoff
Ghost of Pearl Bergoff
23 days ago

McCandless leaving Mount Greylock after signing a huge contract extension in
October. Is he finally retiring, or did he grab a plumb job with JIVE, Sheran and the rest as consultants.

$100 says the next super will be either a legacy pick (Sheran is getting his PhD) or a POC with minimal qualifications but will calm the DIEB issues. (I say that with skepticism)

Last edited 23 days ago by Ghost of Pearl Bergoff
pothole
pothole
23 days ago

off topic. Now not only does Allegrone want a TIFF tax deal but now they want free money from the CPA funds too. I don’t know about any of you but I believe they allegrone group owners are living quite a bit better than the average citizen of Pittsfield and can afford this project without the grant. If they cannot then that is on them and then they either do the project anyway or put the building back on the market and sell. Either way is fine with me. They are reaching into the cookie jar at every turn and we need to say NO

Meanwhile
Meanwhile
Reply to  pothole
23 days ago

They own city hall. Marchetti will give them Clapp park if they ask for it. Unless Millberg asks first.

Was in city hall the other day. Visited one of their offices and it had two aquariums a lit Christmas tree and I counted 15 plants of all kinds. Outside city hall was decorated with more expensive botanical plants and garden work. Tyler street must have tens thousand dollars worth of plants and shrubs. Check out the schools and other city buildings (inside and out) for taxpayer funded botanical investment. I do know a bit about the costs of plants and garden work and I would luv luv luv to see the city line item for plants, shrubs and other assorted garden ornaments. Has to be ginormous. Easily enough to fund a traffic cop for a year if the will was there.

So who has the contract selling the city all this stuff and what is the amount for this year so far and all of last year? I know there are some volunteers that do some maintenance. Did I just hear Marchetti tell his secretary to screen all his calls for the rest of the day?

Set up to fail. Set up for special interests. Get out if you can!

Monday Feed
Monday Feed
Reply to  pothole
23 days ago

White used the Carm maxum pay me now or later cocerning the tote initiative? Then he said pay the freight for the schools by comparing you could end up in a more costly prison cell by not payng up this year?….Where has the Ward Six Councilor been for the last five meetings? Is she ok?

Reconstruct It
Reconstruct It
Reply to  pothole
23 days ago

Naetenyahoo says the ratio to civilian kills is very low 1 to 1. Is he crazy? White says pay me now or pay me later this school cycle. Carms old saying. Pee Wee also says rising are more than school tax?

Markus Aurelius
Markus Aurelius
23 days ago

It’s nice to finally see people waking up to the nonsense being pushed by the far-left and backed by posters like TSC, Snark, and JM, to name a few.

Take for example this Letter to the Editor in the Eagle today.

To summarize it, the writer thinks adding a Pride flag next to the US flag, MA flag, and POW/MIA flag, might not be in the best interests of the town.

With that point, I completely agree. But it’s the last sentence of the letter I wanted to point out. To quote the Williamstown letter writer himself, Ralph Hammann, he states:

“Universities and organizations throughout the country are abandoning DEI as a harmful political sham; it’s time Williamstown does so.

Letter: Why Williamstown should think twice about Progress Pride flag citizens’ petition | Letters To Editor | berkshireeagle.com

Leaping Lanny Poffo
Leaping Lanny Poffo
23 days ago

In Bitchfield’s town hall, a mayor so grand,
A spoiled brat ruling with an iron hand.
He taxed the residents, squeezed them dry,
All to indulge his whims, oh my, oh my!

Voltron the porkchop, council’s head,
His appetite for action figures widespread.
The mayor, beholden to this strange desire,
Kept Voltron’s shelves stocked, higher and higher.

The townsfolk grumbled, wallets thin,
Their hard-earned coins vanished in a spin.
“Mayor,” they cried, “this greed won’t stand!”
But he just smirked, action figures in hand.

In Bitchfield’s streets, discontent brewed,
As Voltron’s collection grew, misconstrued.
The mayor’s legacy tarnished, no doubt,
For action figures couldn’t buy respect, throughout.

So here’s to the mayor, a cautionary tale,
Of overtaxing greed and Voltron’s retail.
May Bitchfield rise, find justice anew,
And action figures no longer skew.

Faree Tortillas
Faree Tortillas
Reply to  Leaping Lanny Poffo
23 days ago

Eerie meanie miney mo voltron pork chops gotta go.