The University of Adelaide Theatre Guild present 4000 Miles, an impactful production with heartfelt relationships at its core. (Image source: Richard Parkhill)

By Lorenzo Polisena | @LorenzoPolisena

Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles, directed by Erik Strauts, is a deep and heartfelt story of journeys through loss and change from characters both young and old. Performed at the Little Theatre, the cast of 4000 Miles each provide their own colour and contrast to the story.

Leo Joseph-Connell, played by Jackson Barnard, opens the performance with a 3am entrance to his grandmother Vera’s West Village Manhattan apartment. Leo is a youthful stoner from St Paul, Minnesota, who, along with his friend Micah, attempt to travel the 4000 mile TransAmerica bike route. Just like any loving grandparent, Vera invites Leo to stay until he finds his feet after his bike trip.

Pictured( Left to Right): Vera (Julie Quick) and Leo (Jackson Barnard) Image source: Richard Parkhill

From folding laundry to finding common conversational ground, Leo and Vera share an appreciation for activism and each other. Despite a great loss on the 4000 mile journey, Leo just keeps riding, eventually coming to terms with its impact. The character of Vera acts as a sounding board for her grandson’s struggle.

Barnard’s portrayal presents the thematic message that we are all to experience loss at some point in life. His interpretation of Leo reinforces that despite growing up, or getting older in the case of Vera, loss is a constant in life.

Barnard connects deeply to the emotional turmoil within his character, the change he is facing and the love he has for his grandmother. Barnard maintains a stability to the emotional complexity of such a journey for a youthful soul like Leo.

Octogenarian Vera Joseph, played by Julie Quick, is Leo’s comedic New Yorker grandmother who isn’t afraid of what people think of her; even if she is starting to forget what she does. Quick truly delves into the loveable and awesome grandparent character who is not afraid of getting high as a kite with her grandson. The comedic relief of Quick’s portrayal of Vera provides balance to an earnest relationship between grandmother and grandson. Quick’s perfectly timed comedy is equally as impressive as her character’s wisdom.

Loss is a cornerstone message delivered by both the life experiences of Leo and Vera. Despite differences in age, loss is something that binds their relationship together.

Pictured (Left to Right): Bec (Laura Antoniazzi) and Leo (Jackson Barnard) Image source: Richard Parkhill

Leo’s rickety romantic relationship with ambitious American college girl Bec, played by Laura Antoniazzi, provides an opposing force to Leo’s carefree nature.

Naomi Gomez, who made her theatrical debut in this production as Leo’s flirtatious high-heeled date Amanda, was spectacular with laughs all-round the theatre. Her youthfulness in a comedic concoction of cocktails and Cali-girl vibes is a remarkable start to the world of theatre.

Set designer Nicole Puttnins, along with scenic artists Lilita Daenke and Kathy McNamara, transformed the Little Theatre into a stylish Manhattan apartment. The 60s aesthetic includes decades old encyclopedias on bookshelves, rotary phones and a grandmother’s signature piece, a bowl of chocolate on the table. Symbolically, the apartment is where time stood still for Vera Joseph, with the set reinforcing her much loved heyday of the 1960s era of peace activism and civil rights movements. The design of the theatre’s upper level is a superb use of space with a beautifully painted Manhattan city skyline, featuring apartment buildings with classic Friends-like fire escapes.

The story highlights how we all have had to endure a 4000 mile journey in some way, shape or form. However, Barnard’s portrayal of Leo reminds us that sometimes it isn’t about the destination, but about the journey, the struggle and the understanding of life we gain.

Though Barnard’s character travels the 4000 mile bike journey, it represents a metaphorical mirror for Leo’s struggle to manage his emotional 4000 mile journey. Barnard sincerely connects and draws in the audience via Leo’s struggle; serving as a reminder to just keep riding, not just physically but emotionally.

4000 miles is presented by the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild at Little Theatre until October 23.