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'4000 Miles' at Stage West doesn't go far enough

4000 Miles

Through May 5

Stage West

821 W. Vickery Blvd.,

Fort Worth

7:30 p.m. Thursday,

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday


817-784-9378; www.stagewest.org

Posted 1:10pm on Thursday, Apr. 11, 2013

FORT WORTH -- Despite its title, 4000 Miles doesn't really go anywhere.

This drama by Amy Herzog, which opened at Stage West last weekend, arrives with impressive credentials. It received a 2012 Obie Award for the best new American play.

But seeing it presented here, in a production that is certainly well acted and seemingly correctly directed, it is hard to understand why.

The play deals with Leo Joseph-Connell (Garret Storms), a moody and enigmatic 20-something who carries around a lot more baggage than his well-traveled bike (the title refers to the cross-country trek Leo takes before the play's action begins) could ever hold. As the curtain rises, he rolls into his grandmother's Manhattan apartment in the middle of the night and seems surprised that she is surprised. We soon learn that Leo is not a happy camper, and then spend the rest of the play waiting for him to trot out all the demons he keeps with him like close friends. It is a painful, and not particularly entertaining, process.

Storms is ideally cast as Leo. He is physically credible as the sort of neo-hippie that the northwestern United States still produces. And he embraces all the quirky angles of his annoying, passive-aggressive character.

Sylvia Luedtke is also excellent as Vera Joseph, an aging communist (now there's a twist) who desperately wants to connect with her troubled grandson. She tolerates the fact that her unexpected guest is, at best, a mooch and, at worst, a thief, and makes every effort to reach out to him. But she comes up empty.

The direction by Dana Schultes shows a lot of thought and care about how to measure out the script's most important moments. There are a series of revelations that require careful attention, and it is clear that Schultes was highly sensitive and creative in responding to those demands.

The set, by Jim Covault, is not elaborately designed, but it serves its purpose. And it is exceptionally well dressed by Lynn Lovett.

But although the production's various elements appear to be as they should be, there is nothing that holds you to this story and these characters. Leo has had some tough luck, but his responses to those woes are immature, self-centered and, often, hurtful to those around him. And despite everyone's best efforts, he never seems to learn anything.

The only real decision he makes is to pedal away from his problems again. What we are left with is a series of incidents and episodes, but no progress toward any sort of enlightenment or resolution.

Some may find these characters and situations in this nicely staged production to be enough to constitute an evening of theater. But the parts offered here just do not add up to a worthy sum.

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