Cora Vander Broek, Ian Barford, Chantal Thuy Photo by Joan Marcus
Tracy Letts’ new comedy Linda Vista has some very funny lines, which is surprising considering the material. Thanks to director Dexter Bullard, we’ve been brought back into the voyeuristic theatre phase, which seems to be the thing, where sex on stage is full frontal. Originally produced at Steppenwolf in Chicago, the show moved to the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angles, before opening for Second Stage on Broadway. It is confusing why and how this happened.
The play revolves around Dick Wheeler (Ian Barford), who goes simply by Wheeler, as his first name is just too transparent. He is a liberal, self-centered middle-aged man, going through a divorce, because he cheated. His kid hates him. A one time photographer for the Chicago Sun-Times, Wheeler moved to San Diego and now works in a camera shop owned by Michael (Troy West), who if possible is even more obnoxious than Wheeler. Michael, a depressive who lives at home with his mother, is constantly sexually inappropriate with the sales girl Anita (Caroline Neff). Why she hasn’t filed a sexual harassment claim or just hauled off and hit him, makes no sense.
In Linda Vista likable human beings are far and few between. Anita is battling addiction recovery and Michael makes Wheeler look like a prize.
When his best friend Paul (Jim True-Frost) sets him up with Jules (Cora Vander Broek), a life coach whose masters is in happiness, it seems that all is a lost cause, especially when she sing Karaoke as does Paul and his wife (Sally Murphy). Jules however doesn’t scare off easily, exclaiming to Wheeler, “You’re like a turtle who doesn’t know he’s lost his shell” and with that wins him over. They have sex that night and needless to say there is a kinky surprise.
All is going well for a nano second, until Minnie (Chantal Thuy), a young Vietnamese American woman needs help. Turns out she’s pregnant, lives in the same building and has been hurt and kicked out by her abusive boyfriend. Minnie promises, “I’ll hurt you… It’s what I do”. She at least tells the truth and does hurt Wheeler, but not before Wheeler hurts Jules and then wants her back, as a consolation prize.
In the end all lose and we have just sat through almost three hours filled with a depressing slice of life.
The cast is all A+. The direction graphic, the set by Todd Rosenthal seems more Florida than San Deigo and I will never get Mr. Letts line visual about Elton John riding on a shetland pony out of my head.
I am a fan of Tracy Letts work, but this piece just left me scratching my head.
Linda Vista: Helen Hayes Theater, 240 West 44th St. until Nov. 10th.