Linda Vista Review – Relationships are Really Tough

L-R: Sally Murphy, Tim Hopper, (background) Cora Vander Broek and Ian Barford in the Steppenwolf Theatre Company production of Tracy Letts’ “Linda Vista.” - Photo by Craig Schwartz

Wheeler (Ian Barford) is a newly divorced man going through a mid-life crisis. Based on that premise, playwright Tracy Letts has fashioned a tale of a newly single man navigating through life’s storms – especially relationship storms. Wheeler has finally severed the cord with his ex-wife and moved out of the family garage. He now lives in the perfect bachelor pad in Linda Vista, a beach community in Southern California. But he may be in store for anything but a “beautiful view” after he settles in and attempts to put his life back together.

Ian Barford and Caroline Neff – Photo by Craig Schwartz

Enter Wheeler’s closest friend Paul (Tim Hopper), the understanding ear to his many woes. Paul and his wife Margaret (Sally Murphy) have decided that Wheeler has been alone long enough, and so they resolve to help him out a little. This is Wheeler’s first blind date – and really his first date of any kind in years. But Jules (Cora Vander Broek) may be just what Wheeler needs to add some spice to his life. She’s a life coach, although perhaps she needs to work on her own life first as she tries to get over her past relationship failures and solo sexuality.

Ian Barford and Chantal Thuy – Photo by Craig Schwartz

A month passes, and all seems well between Wheeler and his new flame, Jules. But the course of true love never runs smooth – and LINDA VISTA is no exception. Pretty rockabilly Minnie (Chantal Thuy) was living with her boyfriend in Wheeler’s apartment complex. That is, until he threw her out of the place, pregnant and penniless. Can Wheeler ignore this poor, needy – as well as very young and very sexy – young woman? And so he takes the stray into his home and life, even though on some level he knows it might not be such a great idea.

L-R: Ian Barford and Tim Hopper – Photo by Craig Schwartz

As the story progresses, the audience learns that Wheeler had big dreams in his youth. He planned to be a famed photographer extraordinaire – that is, until life got in the way. Now he works in a photo shop, the closest he can come to his abandoned youthful aspirations. Did I forget to mention the third female in Wheeler’s life, fellow photo shop worker Anita (Caroline Neff)?

Troy West and Caroline Neff – Photo by Craig Schwartz

LINDA VISTA details a loser trying to become a winner, a man whose hopes don’t seem to work out very well. But also a man who may be trying to get some sympathy by being a sad sack. As Shakespeare would say, the fault might not rest in the stars. LINDA VISTA also has the feel of a serialized TV show. In fact, the end of the play seems to lead into next week’s episode. LINDA VISTA is also a long play. To his credit, though, Letts keeps the action moving and the audience’s attention. Overall, LINDA VISTA is an engrossing story which should resonate with many in the audience.

Ian Barford – Photo by Craig Schwartz

A production of the Steppenwolf Theatre, LINDA VISTA is blessed with an excellent cast headed by Barford, who really gets into his character with gusto. Skillfully helmed by Dexter Bullard, the cast gives its all to a story of failed dreams and persistent tries. And let’s not forget that, even though the story can smack of underlying sadness, Letts has managed to turn Wheeler’s tragedies into very funny stuff. Get ready to laugh while ridiculous situations rear their poignant heads.

Cora Vander Broek and Ian Barford – Photo by Craig Schwartz

LINDA VISTA runs through February 17, 2019, with performances at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays, at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. The Mark Taper Forum is located at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Tickets range from $30 to $99. For information and reservations, call 213-972-7231 or go online.

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