Wheeler—the protagonist of Tracy Letts’ play LINDA VISTA, at the Mark Taper Forum—is a former press photographer from Chicago, now living in the San Diego neighborhood of the play’s title. Attuned to the general pointlessness of his existence, he staves off boredom by working in a camera-repair shop and entertaining the few friends he has with a rich vein of gallows humor: “The problem with Trump voters isn’t that they’re taking too much Oxycontin, but that they’re taking far too little.” Wheeler is the reluctant embodiment of a moribund, two-steps-back-no-steps-forward patriarchy, to which he’d be the first to say “good riddance.”
In other words, Wheeler is an accretion of Letts’ exasperations and concerns two years into our current disaster, written with the playwright’s characteristic comedic insight, depth, and—no matter how bad it gets—enthusiasm.
The energy of Letts’ work is brought to vivid life by the original Steppenwolf Theatre Company cast (but one): Ian Barford is Wheeler, and Tim Hopper and Sally Murphy play his friends Paul and Margaret.
Anita (Caroline Neff) and Michael (Troy West) work in the camera shop, and Wheeler’s romantic partners are played by Chantal Thuy (Minnie) and Cora Vander Broek (Jules).
Dexter Bullard directed the world premiere Chicago run as well as the Taper production.
Through February 17.
Mark Taper Forum
135 North Grand Avenue, downtown Los Angeles.
From top: Cora Vander Broek and Ian Barford in Linda Vista; Barford; Barford and Caroline Neff; Barford and Sally Murphy. All photographs by Craig Schwartz.