Although a familiar face to Broadway audiences of late as an actor, Tracy Letts (he starred in a Tony-nominated revival of “All My Sons” last season) has not had one of his plays here in almost a decade. The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “August: Osage County” returns to the rialto with “Linda Vista,” a Second Stage Theater production which opened at the Hayes Theater on October 10.
Directed by Dexter Bullard, “Linda Vista” unfolds in San Diego during the drawn-out divorce of Dick Wheeler (Ian Barford), a camera repair-man and former photojournalist who boasts a general disdain for much of life as he hurtles toward a midlife crisis in the arms of various women.
Letts’s long-awaited return to Broadway received mostly positive notices. Ben Brantley (New York Times) labels “Linda Vista” a Critic’s Pick and calls the play an “inspired, ruthless take on the classic midlife-crisis comedy.” He says that star Barford has “immense, shaggy charm—and anger to match” that “reminds you of how brilliantly bruising Steppenwolf acting can be.” Brantley also praises director Bullard for his “astutely varied pacing and room for rage,” as well as Barford’s four female co-stars (Sally Murphy, Caroline Neff, Chantal Thuy, and Cora Vander Broek) whose characters are “beautifully portrayed.”
Adam Feldman (Time Out New York) also offers a positive review, giving the play four-out-of-five stars. Admitting that “Linda Vista” “sags a bit in places” and is “loose but astute,” Feldman ultimately thinks the play “a sharp portrait of a male midlife crisis” and “a shaggy-dog cautionary tale.”
Not every review of “Linda Vista” reads as favorably. Melissa Rose Bernardo (New York Stage Review), for example, gives the production three-out-of-five stars, calling the central character “pretty repellent” and “supremely unlikable,” but nevertheless a “staggeringly realistic creation.” Bernardo nevertheless credits Barford’s performance, who “makes Wheeler a charmer when he needs to, but he’s even better when he goes to the character’s dark side.”
Those positive notices certainly make “Linda Vista” a production to keep in mind in the Best Play and Best Actor categories. But the extremely limited nature of the run—“Linda Vista” will close on November 10—could certainly hamper those chances as high-profile shows and actors start treading the boards.
One factor working against “Linda Vista” is that Letts’ new political satire “The Minutes” has been announced for Spring 2020, though dates and a theater have not yet been confirmed. The Tony nominating committee might favor that piece over “Linda Vista,” especially as it will be fresher. Fans of Letts could split their support between these two plays and ultimately see him miss a slot.