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Linda Vista is a neighbourhood inSan Diego, California and it is also the title of a new play by Tracy Letts. Iwill not deal with the neighborhood but will say some very nice things about afunny, dramatic and well-acted play.

Dick Wheeler (Ian Barford), the centralcharacter, at age 50 repairs old cameras in a dinky shop and is not a happyman. He was a photographer for a Chicago newspaper but now he is in the midstof a messy divorce and he does not get along with his teenage son and considershimself a loser.

In his search for companionship, he gets involvedwith two women and both relationships are disastrous for which he isresponsible. He may have learned something and there is some hope about hisattempt at a third relationship but that is left up in the air at the end ofthe play.

Barford gives a bravura performance. Hedominates the action and he delivers Letts’ many zingers, his dramatic scenesand emotional outburst superbly. Barford can modulate his voice, show bodylanguage and reaction to other actors brilliantly and almost make the show.

His first relationship is with Jules (CoraVander Broek), an attractive, sympathetic woman with a problem past. She fallsin love with Wheeler but he is incapable of solidifying the relationship andputs an end to it. The two engage in quite explicit if simulated sex and nuditybut manage to be funny much of the time. Jules’ instinctive empathy andunderstanding of Wheeler are not enough to get through to his feeling ofinferiority. Marvelous work by Broek.

Wheler gets involved with Minnie (ChantalThuy), a young, abused, pregnant Vietnamese woman who has been thrown out byher boyfriend. She eventually dumps him and his dramatic begging for her tostay have (has?) no effect on her. Thuy’scharacter is somewhat mysterious, perhapsbecause of her awful past but the actress does excellent work.

The connecting scenes and much comedy issupplied by Wheeler’s long-time friend Paul (Jim True-Frost) his wife Margaret(Sally Murphy) and his boss Michael (Troy West). His co-worker Anita (CarolineNeff) plays a more significant role at the end of the play. All do fine jobs intheir roles.

Letts touches on politics, sexual harassmentand current events. There are intelligent comments about the definition ofphotography and the distraught Wheeler talks and argues vehemently about hisformer profession. He can be passionate, argumentative and extremely unpleasant.

The play takes place in Wheeler’s apartmentwhich has a kitchen, a bedroom and an exit door. We also go to a karaoke bar, agym and a couple of other less-well-defined venues. Set designer Todd Rosenthalcreates a revolving set with four playing areas that can be quickly changedwhen we are watching another section.

This is a Steppenwolf production directed ablyby Dexter Bullard and provides a very thoughtful and highly entertaining nightat the theatre.


Linda Vista by Tracy Letts continuesuntil November 10, 2019 at the HelenHayes Theatre, 240W 44th St, New York, NY 10036.

  1. From left, JimTrue-Frost, Cora Vander Broek, Ian Barford and Sally Murphy in “Linda Vista,” aSteppenwolf Theater production now on Broadway.Credit...Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
  2. Caroline Neff, left, plays awoman who works in a photo repair shop alongside Barford’sWheeler.Credit...Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

3    Joan MarcusFrom left: Caroline Neff, Ian Barford and TroyWest i

November 8, 2019

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