“Linda Vista,” the play that some critics are calling Tracy Letts’ best, closes this weekend at Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
From Tony Award-winning playwright and Steppenwolf ensemble member Tracy Letts, known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning “August: Osage County,” comes a comedy focused on Dick Wheeler, a recently divorced 50-year-old camera repairmen. Wheeler has moved into the Linda Vista complex in San Diego, is trying to find his footing in his new life, and is going through two relationships by making every horrible choice possible that provides all the laughter for the audience.
“Linda Vista” is a prime example of the two things Letts does best: dialogue and character study. Between Wheeler, played by Ian Barford, and Paul, played by Tim Hopper, there seems to be a joke every 30 seconds in the first half of the play alone. Just between those two characters you could easily watch them on your TV for 30 minutes every Thursday. However, once you dig past the dirty and political humor Letts opens up a man in the middle of a self-destructive streak of epic proportions.
Wheeler is the ultimate contrarian, with little-to-no filter, who has the neurotic anger of Lewis Black while exhibiting the charm of a Vince Vaughn character. The neurosis allows for the laughter, but the charm keeps you rooting for him as he goes on a blind date with Jules, played by Cora Vander Broek, a life coach who is Wheeler’s antithesis. The argumentative banter, karaoke singing, and hilariously awkward sex keeps you comfortable and hoping the relationship works out. At this moment you should realize that this isn’t some romantic comedy but an actual Steppenwolf production. Minnie the pregnant, hard-edged millennial enters the scene to add the much-needed drama.
This isn’t your typical midlife crisis where a man feels old and wants to feel young again. Wheeler is a man who as smart and charming as he is never got to evolve. As mentioned in the play, he’s the caterpillar that never got to become the butterfly. In “Linda Vista” you experience how low in the dirt Wheeler goes before he can even begin to transform into who he truly is.
“Linda Vista” is running until May 28 at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted St. Tickets range between $20 and $94. Note that there is full nudity and sexual depictions in the production. For showtimes and more information visit steppenwolf.org/tickets–events/seasons/2016-17/linda-vista.