4000 Miles

4000 Miles res
Stephen Multari and Diana McLean in their brilliant portrayals of Leo and Vera. Photo: Gez Xavier Mansfield.

ATYP Under The Wharf, May 3

If your heart is sick or just needs warming, go and see this play. If you are a baby-boomer who doesn’t understand your grandchildren or are from Gen Y and are, like, really weirded out by your grandparents, go and see this play. If you simply love theatre, go and see this play.

Amy Herzog’s writing seethes with psychological insight. It is the work of someone who loves her characters too much to satirise them, and yet sees through them with laser-like perspicacity.

It contains a magnificent role in Vera, the New York grandmother on whose doorstep Leo lobs after cycling across America. She is an aging leftie with her ideals intact but her body not. Diana McLean offers a performance of lovable humanity, humour, poignancy and impeccable timing.

By making Vera the initial central figure Herzog draws us in instantly, while we are still unsure whether we care about Leo, with his tendency to use people, even when trying not to.

Stephen Multari’s performance catches all the trip-wires entangling Leo’s mental hyperactivity with his swings between emotional inertia and emotional mobility. His hilarious dope-smoking scene with Vera is one of two where the comedy is, well, high, but never obvious.

The other is his attempted one-night stand with Amanda, whose drunkenness is realised with charming whimsicality and understatement by Aileen Huynh. Completing the cast is Eloise Snape, whose tiniest changes of expression tell stories about Leo’s on-off girlfriend, Bec.

Anthony Skuse’s direction is masterful. When Herzog’s finely-observed characters could so easily have been undermined by caricaturing and by not trusting the audience to get what is left unsaid his instincts are consistently right.

As are Herzog’s. You can feel Leo’s inevitable confession coming from miles off, and fear it will deflate the play’s buoyancy. But no. She leaves it to Vera to gently prick the moment, and McLean’s performance leaves you in better heart than when you walked in.

Until May 18.