When Leah Karpel, playing Bec in Long Wharf Theatre’s upcoming production of 4000 Miles, sat down with members of the marketing department to chat about the play, she wasn’t sure her take on the piece was going to work well with their efforts to sell the show.
“If I had to say what this play’s about, I’d say it’s about death, because I’m very dark. I know that’s not going to help you sell any tickets,” she said with a glorious laugh. “No, the play isn’t that dark.”
She’s right, it’s not that dark. 4000 Miles, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, is a funny and thoughtful, intelligent and empathetic story about a lost grandson Leo reconnecting with his grandmother Vera. “I love this play. It is a really well made play,” said Karpel, who plays the grandson’s staunch girlfriend. “The relationship between Leo and Vera is true because they love each other, but it is very hard for them to communicate. They haven’t seen each other in so long and there is such a generational gap. They find ways to communicate.”
While death is certainly included, the play’s rehearsal process has brought up a lot of other subjects for the actors to explore: the uncertainty of aging, finding one’s place in the world, reminiscences of one’s own grandparents. All those subjects distilled down to their essence deal with a matter at the heart of Amy Herzog’s play: connecting with one another.
“In rehearsal we are exploring a lot of the ways that people miss connections with each other. That when you get the opportunity to spend time with your grandparents you don’t always necessarily make the best of it or ask the questions you should ask. A lot of time there is a lot of talking at people, not talking to people,” Karpel said.
Lost moments gather – it becomes easy to forget to pay attention or to be present. It is easy to get caught up in one’s own problems and not realize that the help you need might be right in front of you. It can happen to 20-somethings or 80-somethings.
“We are also exploring from the younger characters point of view what it is like to be at that point of your life, in your twenties. You don’t really know who you are going to be. You know where you come from, but you don’t know where you are going and the anxiety, uncertainty and fear that that brings up. In a lot of ways it is similar to the experience of someone who is late in life, in their 80s, and don’t really know where they are going and what the rest of their life is going to be like. In those ways, the characters in the play connect,” she said.
Karpel enjoys special connection with her grandparents. They live in Chicago, and come to see all of her work. They are going to travel to New Haven to see her in 4000 Miles. “My grandmother is coming to see this one because I know she’ll love it,” she said.
Karpel feels that 4000 Miles is the kind of play that has something for everyone. “I hope that audiences that come to see 4000 Miles come away with a greater appreciation of the relationships in their lives, their family relationships, and an appreciation of the moments we get to spend with families and loved one. Those moments should be savored,” she said.