It’s usually instantly obvious when you’re watching a master at work. As soon as the lights went up on Rosemary Prinz I knew we were about to see an true professional give an acting masterclass in the Shelterhouse Theatre. Ms. Prinz, a legendary soap opera pioneer and veteran stage actress, plays Vera Joseph, an octagenarian-at-least who has just received a late night visit from her hippie grandson. He’s one of those obnoxious “free spirits” and he’s only here out of convenience because his ex-girlfriend (played by the uniquely charismatic Adina Verson) wouldn’t let him in her apartment.
I wouldn’t have either. He smelled. He was filthy from his cross country bike ride from Seattle to New York City. And besides his appearance, his personality was repulsive. We learn through the course of the play that he has some hurts that he’s obvioulsy not dealt with. Still I had a hard time relating to the character and never really was taken with his story. Being liberal for the sake of being liberal is an obnoxious characteristic and I just didn’t like him. He was disrespectful to his grandmother, ignored his girlfriend Bec’s feelings, and planned to take advantage of an all too willing party girl “Amanda” (the fun Christine Linn).I’m not sure if it is the writing or the acting that was the problem, but I think it might have been a little bit of both. I also was quite puzzled by the choice to barely light the stage during Leo’s emotional recount of what happened on his bike trip to his friend; I couldn’t see the actor emoting and I got a little bored by just listening to him talk in the dark. It was nice to see how the relationship between grandmother and grandson grew over the two acts, but because I didn’t connect with Leo it wasn’t as affecting as I had hoped.
Luckily, Prinz is good enough to overcome the challenges of the show and just dominates, giving a performance as good or better than any I’ve seen thus far this season. She was funny. Natural. Authentic. Real. Quite perfect, actually.
This isn’t the best show of 2014 by any stretch, but this veteran pioneer of daytime TV deserves to be seen in person. Go see it for yourself; others are raving about the show. Tickets will go fast as word spreads about the marvelous performance of Ms. Prinz so get yours now.
4,000 MILES runs through March 9th at the Playhouse in the Park. Written by Amy Herzog. Directed by Blake Robison.