“4000 Miles” by Amy Herzog at Arts West Playhouse

Tender! Funny! Youth collides with old, old age as 21-year-old Leo crashes at his 91-year-old Grandma’s pad (a quite lovely Manhattan rent-controlled apartment). He’s near the end of his life-altering cross country bike trip. Don’t think the young man is there to buoy up the old lady. Quite the contrary both have much to learn from the other, but young Leo clearly gains most in this encounter.

Directed by Mathew Wright, the new artistic director of ArtsWest, this affectionate and charming piece plays out on Burton Yuen’s first rate set. It’s filled with the tokens and remainders of Grandma’s long life, including a black rotary phone, something Leo probably hardly knows how to use. He comes unannounced, and once Grandma gets her teeth and hearing aid in, they can discuss why he’s there.

Surprised she is. Overjoyed she’s not. He barges in bringing the dirt of the road, possibly lice, but most of all a lifestyle unfamiliar to her. Now don’t get the idea that the old lady is bordering on dementia or slow wittedness. She’s one sharp dame, doing very well on her own, but is not quite sure what to make of the intrusion of this young man whom she hasn’t seen in some years and whose life style is not at all familiar.

What a delight to have Susan Corzatte back on a Seattle stage. Her Grandma is a prickly, sharp-tongued, no-nonsense dame who’s too old to be sloppily sentimental, but the love is right there under her curt advice and huffy responses. She and Adam Standley playing Leo are wonderful foils for one another.

Leo’s bike trip has included tragedy. It’s caused him to lose his girlfriend who happens to live in New York City, and it certainly hasn’t improved his relationship with his parents. He has no job, appears to have no direction, but he’s tech savvy, can show Grandma the wonders of Skype and the internet. Condoms and dope she tolerates, but love-making on her couch?

Standley has that “aw shucks” charm of a really nice, but somewhat naive young man who is finding his way. With Grandma’s help he certainly will.

The play was a 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist and has received other awards. This touching production captures its strengths—the insecurities of youth and the poignancy and disappointments of age—both revealed with humor. It’s another winner in Seattle’s 2015 theatre year.

Through Feb. 15, at ArtsWest Playhouse, 4711 California Ave., SW., Seattle, (206 938-0963 or www.artswest.org)

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