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Broadway Review: “Linda Vista” at Second Stage Theater’s Helen Hayes Theater (Through Sunday November 10, 2019)

Broadway Review: “Linda Vista” at Second Stage Theater’s Helen Hayes Theater (Through Sunday November 10, 2019)
Written by Tracy Letts
Directed by Dexter Bullard
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The sharp and witty dialogue of the latest dramedy penned by playwright Tracy Letts is foreshadowed by the title “Linda Vista” which means “pretty view” in Spanish. The midlife crisis of a bitter fifty-year-old, divorced, white male, who seems to have an insatiable libido and absolutely no respect for women – preferring to exhibit his unbridled male testosterone – is in no way, shape or form a pleasant sight to observe. The woeful and somewhat physical breakdown of the antihero character Wheeler (an angst-ridden Ian Barford) is the focus of this latest dysfunctional emotional drama that is a dismal commentary on marriage, relationships and the alpha male.

Although Mr. Letts provides yet another example of his prolific writing in “Linda Vista,” it is also filled with long, incendiary sex scenes that do nothing to move the plot forward and almost seem gratuitous. What we learn about Wheeler during these escapades is that he is getting old, his body is deteriorating, and that he has no consideration for women – something already established on a more literal level. This is also repeated during a blind date in an overlong Karaoke bar scene and when attempting to seduce a younger woman just to establish his disdain for independent, intelligent females. These scenes could possibly add a morsel of character exposition but could be cut considerably allowing a better focus on the droll dialogue.

The plot follows Wheeler moving from his ex-wife’s garage in Chicago to a new apartment in sunny, San Diego, California to start a new life as a fifty-year-old bachelor. His old friends Paul (a solid and supportive Jim True-Frost) and Margaret (a forceful, optimistic Sally Murphy), who is an ex-girlfriend and now married to Paul, are already there to help him navigate his new journey. He strikes out with a co-worker at the camera repair shop, Anita (a feisty Caroline Neff), who bluntly tells him she will never date him and also fails to pick up a younger Vietnamese woman, Minnie (a vibrant Chantal Thuy) in a dive bar, who eventually recognizes him as her neighbor in the “Linda Vista” apartment complex.

Options running low he concedes to a blind date with Margaret’s friend Jules (an honest, realistic Cora Vander Broek) who is a life coach. Wheeler starts a relationship with Jules who stays over quite a bit for an active sex life. Minnie shows up at the door pregnant by a boyfriend who abandoned her and is now homeless. Wheeler takes her in and of course ends up cheating and indulging in a sex marathon which he is loses. Jules leaves him, Minnie eventually leaves him and surprise, he tries to reconcile with Jules which will never happen. He is once again alone and broken, physically and emotionally with a deteriorating hip and wounded psyche. If this were not bad enough, he castigates his deviant man-child boss Michael (a disturbing Troy West) so he gets fired and is left unemployed. There are no surprises but a few funny lines that keep the story moving.

All this would probably be easily acceptable ten years ago, but in the current socio-political ideology it is difficult to subject an audience to this counterculture even though existing remnants are still being unearthed. If there was something, anything to like about Wheeler the audience may have some empathy for the character but even his quick wit wears thin after two hours and forty minutes. The entire cast is remarkable, and Mr. Barford certainly turns in an impressive performance but at times the content diminishes the vulnerability of Wheeler, leaving only an angry, despicable, incorrigible moron with no redeeming values. It would have been advantageous to dig a bit deeper to define the character so at the end, there might be a glimmer of hope rather than a whimper of uncertainty.

LINDA VISTA

“Linda Vista” stars Ian Barford, Sally Murphy, Caroline Neff, Chantal Thuy, Jim True-Frost, Cora Vander Broek, and Troy West.

The full creative team for “Linda Vista” includes scenic design by Todd Rosenthal, costume design by Laura Bauer, lighting design by Marcus Doshi, sound design by Richard Woodbury, and casting by TELSEY + COMPANY.

“Linda Vista” runs at Second Stage’s Broadway home, The Hayes Theater (240 West 44th Street) through Sunday November 10, 2019 on the following performance schedule: Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Thursday at 7:00 p.m., Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. For further information and to purchase tickets, visit https://2st.com/shows/linda-vista. Running time is 2 hours and 40 minutes including one intermission.

Photo: Cora Vander Broek, Ian Barford, and Chantal Thuy. Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Thursday, October 24, 2019