Dobama Theatre’s “4000 Miles” Treats a Sad Time in a Young Man’s Life with Candor and Subtle Humor

Dobama Theatre’s “4000 Miles” Treats a Sad Time in a Young Man’s Life with Candor and Subtle Humor
By Marjorie Preston

Dobama Theatre’s current production, “4000 Miles,” by Amy Herzog, is a quiet play with a lot of tell and not quite enough show, luckily populated by a skilled cast including standout Dorothy Silver. “4000 Miles” is saved by its openness, and finding the funny in the everyday.

When 21-year-old Leo Joseph-Connell (Matt O’Shea) sets out on a cross-country bike trip with his friend Micah, he doesn’t count on witnessing Micah’s gruesome death. After Leo calls his parents and Micah’s parents, he finds himself alone with no one to turn to, and decides to continue the trip from Seattle to NYC because as he says, “I came to finish something I started.” When even his driven, good-hearted college student girlfriend Bec (Rachel Lee Kolis) turns him away, he ends up at the door of his feisty Communist grandmother, Vera (Dorothy Silver) 70 years his senior.

At one point, Leo ventures out for the evening and meets Amanda (Kat Bi), a flashy, fast girl presumably picked up in a bar. She goes for his “mountain man” scraggly look and his sad story, until Vera walks in on the two of them and kills the mood.

The trouble with the script is that there are so many good stories told but the juicy stories are not happening on stage: Micah’s gruesome death, Leo’s kiss with his adopted sister while they were on peyote, Vera’s husband’s philandering and the subsequent drama with Vera and his mistresses, the death of one of Vera’s neighbors – the list goes on. The characters are fascinating, so seeing them on a quiet, average day, with the true-to-life slow pace of that day, is fine for those who enjoy a slice of life with realistic characterizations, and nothing more.

What “4000 Miles” is good at is asking deep questions, treating a sad time in a young man’s life with candor and subtle humor, and giving us a reason to hang out with Vera, who is a fascinating and worldly character, skillfully acted by the talented Dorothy Silver.

Director Joel Hammer has done right with casting Dorothy Silver, who brings a sly wit and a breadth of experience heads above the other cast mates. The rest of the cast is talented as well, though, and the chemistry between them works very well. Scenic Designer Laura Carlson has furnished Vera’s apartment very simply, with green patterned wallpaper, a sofa and upholstered chair, coffee table, TV stand and dining set. Only the bright red bicycle stands out, clearly showing the difference in tastes between young and old.

“4000 Miles” plays at Dobama Theatre, 2340 Lee Road in the West Wing of the Cleveland Heights Main Library, Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sunday, December 9 at 7:30 p.m. and remaining Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through January 6. Tickets are available at or by calling (216) 932-3396. The play contains adult language and themes.

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