Thursday, October 17, 2013

"4000 Miles:" Actors Feel Connected to Characters

Jenny O'Hara and Matt Caplan in 4000 Miles.
Playwright Amy Herzog’s warm storytelling drew actors Jenny O’Hara and Matt Caplan to the play 4000 Miles. In South Coast Repertory’s production, O’Hara portrays 91-year-old Vera and Caplan is 21-year-old Leo.

“The subjects and the subtleties in the writing drew me to the play,” says Jenny O’Hara.

Caplan agrees, “There is an unparalleled energy in live storytelling, and if you are lucky enough to experience art that really does ‘hold as ’twere, the mirror up to nature,’ you can feel it.”

For Caplan, it was love at first read with 4000 Miles, as he prepared for his audition. 

“On my website I write about how I exclaimed aloud to my cats just how much I was enjoying the read, so they can personally attest to this fact [laughs]. Amy Herzog's language is so naturally sublime that you lose yourself in the authenticity and humanity of it, and after a while, you feel like an exhilarated little fly on the wall of a West Village apartment. I immediately and passionately sympathized with Leo, which is such an important and exciting feeling as an actor. “

In talking with both actors, we explored their approach to both characters and the play itself.

How are you similar to your character?

O’Hara: Vera and I do have similarities; we both are tough, principled, direct and soft-hearted. We both believe in the greater good. She reminds me of my 96-year-old mother, who still runs her off-off Broadway theatre in New York City. She is in her lobby every day, doing business. She was raised on a stump farm in Idaho, came to New York at age 50 to be a producer and has been doing it successfully for 46 years.

Caplan:  When Leo arrives at his grandmother's door, he is in a foreign city, and he is filled with a paradoxical mix of triumph and loss. He is struggling to remain a positive ideologue in the midst of unprecedented adversity. He's a fitness enthusiast. He's a liberal. He's a hopeless romantic. In short, yeah, I know a guy of who reminds me of Leo. Jenny breathes such life in Vera and nuance into this wonderfully wrought character that I truly feel like I’ve found a long-lost grandmother and friend. There is a subtle and unique kind of familiarity and discovery in relationships like Leo and Vera's, and Jenny has made this part of the process easy by being so believable and available.

How have your characters developed through the rehearsal process?

O’Hara: Vera has evolved in the rehearsal process in two directions…she has become both tougher and softer, more nurturing, and an advocate for all of her family members, especially her grandson Leo. Matt is a wonderful young actor and has made being Leo's advocate very, very easy.

Caplan:  Leo certainly evolves on the page, so my chief concern is honoring the text and making sense of his journey. I rely heavily on David and my fellow actors to help me shape and refine Leo's evolution. He can be brilliant, bratty, and vulnerable, all at once. I just want him to be understood.

Why are you drawn to SCR?

O’Hara: The theatre is remarkable. It is an ancient art form, a family, a celebration and a gift to the artists and the audience. SCR does extraordinary work with extraordinary playwrights, actors and directors. They have daring taste in material and terrific supporters. It offers its artists everything they need to bring the work to life. 

Caplan: South Coast Repertory fosters a level of professionalism and artistic bravery that I know to be quite rare. I think that the ease with which our company communicates and explores during rehearsal is continually surprising, at least to me. I must say this organization and this cast continue to astound me on a daily basis. It is a joy to create with them.

What do you hope audiences will come away with after seeing 4000 Miles?

O’Hara: I hope they come with any fixed ideas about the facts of youth and age broken and with love and respect for both states and for these two singular people.

Caplan:  I hope that audiences feel like they are experiencing a story that is both subtle and unforgettable. And most importantly, human.

Buy tickets now.


  1. I saw this play in New York recently and was excited to have the chance to see it again near home. it is a wonderful and touching story.

  2. My husband and I have been subscribers to SCR for over 12 years. I apologize for not thank
    King you on a regular basis when I was delighted, entertained, challenged, and awed by the multitude of plays we have enjoyed through the years. I am changing that silence. 4000 Miles was theater at its best, authentic, believable characters struggling through love to grow and change.
    Matt Caplan embodied Leo Joseph Connell, and th erelationship he had with his grandmother Vera Joseph, was so real that at times the invisible wall between the actors and audience disappeared, and I was WITH THEM in the moment. And example was when Vera, realizing Leo was sitting in the dark, turns off the passage light and joins him on the couch, and listens as best she can as the illumination slowly heightens , ending with Leo's head in her lap. Thank you for superb theater.