Linda Vista: Sex, Middle Age and Lost Dreams

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Linda Vista: Sex, Middle Age and Lost Dreams
Cora Vander Broek and Ian Barford in Linda Vista
Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Playwright and actor Tracy Letts is a force of nature.

Even when he is not playing a sharp-tongued, incredibly bright depressive (which he has done so well), through his cutting dialogue, his presence is strongly felt on stage in Linda Vista.

Letts’ exploration of a 50-year old man who has moved into a non-descript rental, settling into a life of mediocrity defined by a dead-end job which he decidedly embraces, is his latest journey into the relationship-sphere.

While going through a separation from his wife, Dick Wheeler, played by an amazing Ian Barford, is filled with rage at the way things turned out in his life, but wants to do nothing to make it better. Supremely aware of his failures, Wheeler provides a character who is deep into his self-loathing, resulting in his inability to really connect with others.

Actually, all the characters in this play have this problem, but it is manifested in different ways.

Wheeler is a sort of down and out Everyman. Many of Wheeler’s lines (he doesn’t like to use his first name) are opinions one doesn’t usually say in public, but might very well be thinking. 

All seven characters  that Letts has created in Linda Vista are fully formed, including the incredibly creepy Michael (Troy West),  owner of the dated camera shop where Wheeler works repairing cameras. After his constant leering of Anita (Caroline Neff), the young woman who works in his shop, Michael weighs in with his sexual fantasies about her, and you just want to take a shower.

Jules, a life coach introduced to Wheeler through his best friends Paul (Jim True-Frost) and Margaret (Sally Murphy), is valiantly played by Cora Vander Broek. Vander Broek finds nuances in this character, and builds a strong arc in her story, while at one point in the play, is comfortable being completely and utterly naked, engaging in passionate, abandoned sex.

I give her a lot of credit for this portrayal.

Also naked in the play and having sex with Wheeler is Minnie (Chantal Thuy) a young woman in Wheeler’s complex who moves in after a break up with her abusive boyfriend.

Despite his middle age, Wheeler has a way with the ladies.

While I’m on the subject, let me ask you this.  How comfortable are you watching actors completely naked and simulating sex? If this is not for you, do reconsider, because graphic sex plays a big part of Linda Vista.

Directed by Dexter Bullard, Linda Vista does run a good twenty minutes longer than it should, with some repetitive themes. There is a karaoke scene that is a bit awkwardly executed and had me wishing it would end sooner. But the sharp depth of the story line makes up for this overwriting.

Fun, deep, sexy, biting. Linda Vista runs through Nov. 10.


For more theatre news, interviews and commentary listen to “Bagels and Broadway with Valerie Smaldone” Saturday mornings from 9-10 on WNYM radio, online, Alexa and podcast. The only theatre and food focused radio show in New York.

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