Broadway review by Adam Feldman
Wheeler (Ian Barford) is the kind of man who has declared a funeral for his future, and drags the rest of the world in his wake. He’s not just antiheroic, he’s anti-everything: a newly divorced 50-year-old blowhard who wears his snobbism proudly—“I do not like so many things and so many of them are things that a lot of people like”—in the knowledge that he has been among its victims. (A once-promising photographer, he has second-guessed himself into life as a vintage-camera repairman in San Diego.) Between his superiority and self-disgust, he doesn’t even realize how deeply he is falling into midlife-crisis cliché. In his loose but astute Linda Vista, Tracy Letts rips the blinders away.
Directed by Dexter Bullard for Steppenwolf, and imported to Broadway by Second Stage, Linda Vista is a shaggy-dog cautionary tale. As Wheeler navigates his relationships—with, among others, a wounded life coach (Cora Vander Broek) who has a master's degree in "happiness," a Vietnamese-American rockabilly fille fatale (Chantal Thuy) and his loathsome, lecherous boss (Troy West)—the play shuffles through several modes: sitcom, dramatic portrait, near-vérité. (There are two realistic and revealing sex scenes, and a long section in a karaoke bar.) Although it sags a bit in places, it coheres in the end, and Barford and Letts give Wheeler precisely the right amount of rot. The play sees right through this guy, and the view behind him isn’t pretty.
Hayes Theater (Broadway). By Tracy Letts. Directed by Dexter Bullard. With Ian Barford. Running time: 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.