Review by Elyse Trevers
Wheeler is finally moving out of his wife’s garage into a new two-bedroom apartment in singles’ complex, Linda Vista. “Linda Vista,” the new play by award-winning actor-playwright Tracy Letts, is a wonderfully entertaining character sketch of a man whose libidinous ways keep him from finding happiness.
As Wheeler and his friend Paul (Jim True-Frost) move clothing and personal belongings into his new bachelor apartment, they discuss dating, jerking off, breasts, and Ali McGraw’s sex addiction. Although they sound like two college frat boys, both are 50.
He is a former photographer, now working in a shop repairing old cameras. Wheeler’s blunt, self-deprecating, and intelligent with a wry sense of humor. Yet at the same time, he’s very likable and attractive to women.
Wheeler is slightly paunchy, noting that no young woman would want to see him at the pool in a speedo. Played by Ian Barford (Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night) he’s ruggedly handsome and sloppily attractive. A bear of a man, Barford has a good comic delivery in delivering Lett’s self-deprecating dialogue.
And as the play progresses, despite his own remarks about being old at 50, he ‘hits’ on younger women.
He meets a vibrant, bubbly life coach named Jules Isch (Cora Vander Broek) who claims to have a Master’s in “happiness.” He finds himself attracted to her and she falls for him. She finds him vulnerable, saying that he’s “like a turtle that doesn’t know he lost his shell.”
Linda Vista, directed by Dexter Bullard, includes total male and female nudity but it’s very natural. There are two love scenes, one with Jules and Wheeler and one with him and Minnie, the Vietnamese woman he’s allowed to stay in his apartment. Some of the humor comes from topical references from years ago to things like New Coke and The Crypt Keeper that will be lost on younger audience members.
There’s much verbal humor, most of it from Wheeler directed towards himself. However, there’s a bit of physical humor. When he and Jules are having sex for the first time, he groans loudly and we assume it is with pleasure, only to hear him moan, “oh, my hip.”
Letts includes an almost grim commentary on marriage, divorce and parenthood. Wheeler cheated on his wife and has no relationship with his teenage son. Although Paul and his wife Margaret have been together for a long time, Paul remarks “all in all, on the balance, on the whole, it’s maybe not worth it. Maybe it’s just really not worth it “
Is Wheeler randy or afraid of aging? His relationship with Jules invigorates him yet he breaks up with her to have a relationship with the 20- something pregnant Minnie. However, the situation is of his own making, and we feel little sympathy for him. By the end, despite the humor, Linda Vista is dark and depressing. Wheeler’s a man who won’t grow up and can’t have a meaningful relationship. Is it a wonder he winds up alone?