Tag Archives: Craig Schwartz


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.


During the awards season, Hollywood occasionally likes to pretend that it’s a meritocracy of quality and craft, and not a desperate scrum devoted to the acquisition of shiny statuettes—and the explosive yet temporary prestige and box-office bonanza that follows.

The billboards and trade-paper ads, the stress, the diets, the false humility, the cracked voices and tears at the podium, the world-class ridiculousness that obtains until the last Academy Award is handed out are all grist for satire, and if Paul Rudnick—in spirit and in contract—is too far inside to truly bite the hand that feeds him, the first half of his new play BIG NIGHT (a world premiere at the Kirk Douglas, directed by Walter Bobbie) is a an often-hilarious jab at Oscar-night hijinks in the manner of Noël Coward: slaps, not punches.

A nominated actor, his boyfriend, his agent, his transgender nephew, his mother Esther, and his mother’s lover—all lovable monsters of need, greed, and ego—are thrown together in a Beverly Hills hotel suite before the awards ceremony. Esther (a chic social x-ray smoothly played by Wendie Malick) picks the biggest night of her son’s life to come out of the closet and introduce the assembly to her new partner, the African-American writer, professor, and multiple-Pulitzer Prize winner Eleanor (Kecia Lewis, a exuberant foil).

(In one of the evening’s funniest lines, Eleanor confides that she knew Esther was for her when she came to realize, “There’s a woman who believes cosmetics should be tested on Republicans.”)

Halfway through the play, tragedy strikes. Using a ripped-from-the-headlines catastrophe as a prop to reveal the serious side of a bunch of jokers is a dangerous game—writing to type works better with comedy than tragedy—and if the play doesn’t quite recover from its drastic U-turn, at least Rudnick took a chance. What resonates in BIG NIGHT, what has always been Rudnick’s forte, is his portrayal of the multivalent overlap of bourgeois queer experience—our insights and our blindness, our great ongoing experiment.

BIG NIGHT, through October 8.

KIRK DOUGLAS THEATRE, 9820 Washington Boulevard, Culver City.


From top: Kecia Lewis and Wendie MalickBrian Hutchison (nominated star) and Max Jenkins (his agent); Luke Macfarlane (star’s boyfriend) and Hutchison; Lewis, Malick, and Tom Phelan (nephew) in Big Night. Photographs by Craig Schwartz.