Oscar E Moore

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LINDA VISTA – by Tracy Letts, a Steppenwolf production at 2ndStage

October 12th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore

Dick Wheeler’s life is anything but a pretty picture.  He seems to have been born with low self- esteem.  He is in the middle of a prolonged divorce, bickering over child support and whatever else there is to bicker about.  His thirteen year old son is into porn and refuses to go to school.  But that’s his life not Wheelers.

At age 50 he is experiencing a monumental mid-life crisis working at repairing cameras (those that use film) when he was once a budding photographer.  Michael (Troy West) a man of a certain age, his boss, still lives with his mother, is suicidal in an amusing way and coverts the breasts of co-worker Anita (Caroline Neff) herself in recovery mode.

Wheeler is just moving into his new apartment in LINDA VISTA – San Diego California, as the play by Tracy Letts opens; being assisted by his squash buddy and longtime pal Paul (Jim True-Frost) who is married to Margaret (Sally Murphy) a long ago girl friend of Wheeler.

They worry for Wheeler and have set up a double/blind date in a Karaoke bar with Jules (Cora Vander Broek) a “life coach” who has her own set of problems yet has a Masters in Happiness.  LINDA VISTA runs just under three hours in two acts and worth every minute.

It is, at times, hysterical.  You will never see a more realistic and excruciatingly funny sex scene between Wheeler and Jules.  Beautifully and tastefully staged by director Dexter Bullard and Claire Warden (Intimacy Consultant) – who certainly knows her stuff.  Full frontal nudity for both participants.  If that isn’t enough to sell tickets then the play itself will do its best to give you something to laugh about and to think about.

IAN BARFORD is Wheeler, giving an honest and well rounded, first you love him then you hate him, no holds barred incredible performance.  With a hang dog look and a grumpy mid-life crisis attitude he runs away with this comedy.  Yes, this is an extremely funny play.  Yet truthful and moving with dialogue that is sharp and wise and caustic.  Covering everything from “foam” in restaurants to that orange monster who shall not be named to old movies and that old standby betrayal, Wheeler rants and raves with great comedic dead pan timing.  An Archie Bunker meets Jay Leno type of dude who prefers Wheeler over his first name which is Dick.

Into this mix arrives Minnie (Chantal Thuy) a 26 year old Vietnamese American with pink hair and red high-tops.  Wheeler meets her in a bar and as fate would have it she has seen him at his pool in the complex and arrives in the middle of the night (post-sex with Jules) as her boyfriend has beat her and she is pregnant and she has nowhere to go.  So our accommodating Dick invites her to stay…

Wisely Anita has refused to date this troubled Dick who is caught between his past and his future all the while having to deal with his present.  Serious and troubling stuff included.

The various locations are cinematically presented on the functional turntable set by Todd Rosenthal.  A panoramic view of Palm trees and a San Diego skyscape is truly a beautiful view.  Odd musical selections accompany the scene changes.  Appropriate costumes by Laura Bauer.

But it is the writing of Tracy Letts that wins the evening.  That and the terrific performance by Ian Barford strongly supported by all the other cast members.  A fine ensemble.  And oh, that sex scene!

A Steppenwolf production.  At Second Stage Theater.  The Helen Hayes Theater.  Highly recommended.  Through November 10th.

2hrs. 40 minutes.  One intermission



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Photos: Joan Marcus

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