4000 Miles is a profound and sympathetic exploration of the human condition complicated by a stringent appreciation of the limits of our human understanding. Almost everything happens in it, and yet nothing much happens. The play is concerned with all the big stuff: the nature of a good life, death, maturation, suffering, love, loss, growing old, dying, missed connections, bad timing, so many regrets, and a little bit of personal growth, but not enough growth to provide an audience with a false sense of uplift. Nothing much is resolved here. And yet we are left feeling as if we have witnessed something momentous.
4000 Miles is a meditation on a common sense of loss and grief and anger and confusion that attends our growing up and our growing old. What the play brings so painfully to the fore is that the young are destined to grow up, the grownup are destined to grow old, and the old are destined to grow obsolete. Everything is impermanent. Everything passes away. Teeth, hearing, memory, friends, lovers, life itself.
Nothing much is resolved here. And yet we are left feeling as if we have witnessed something momentous.
For those of us in the great, thick middle part of life, those years when — whether you have kids or career, or both; or you’re single and have a vibrant social life; or you have myriad causes to which you dedicate your time; or you like to travel the world; or you work three grueling minimum-wage jobs just to pay the rent — whatever you do, you are usually at your busiest and it seems like it will always, always be this way.
But of course, it won’t.
Sometimes it seems like life is nothing more than a process by which we accumulate a lot of things only to lose them all in the end, usually one at a time over many years, if we’re lucky. 4000 Miles is not about that thick middle part of life. It is an exploration of the times in life that bracket all that busy-ness, at the beginning or the end of all that.
The stuff of this play is really elemental: grief and anger at life’s both unexpected and inevitable losses. But somehow the characters muddle through it. They have to. And even though their lives could not be more different from each other, Vera and Leo, sitting at opposite ends of that busy middle, find solace in each other. In a world in which we are not only left to our own devices, but are encouraged to think of relying on others as a kind of weakness, that these two people come to grow with and support each other is a small miracle.