The play follows Wheeler, a middle-aged divorced guy stuck in a rut, seeking purpose. The comedy is about the mistakes human beings make and how new perspectives can ultimately be life-changing.
Below are seven reasons to celebrate the Broadway debut of Linda Vista.
1. The show came organically out of nothing.
“I just rolled a piece of paper into my typewriter and started writing,” says the Pulitzer Prize and Tony winner for August: Osage County. “It started out as a dialogue between some guys that I found myself curious about. Then I became interested in this one guy, Wheeler, who was a lot like a lot of friends of mine, and also borrows pretty liberally for me.”
2. Power dynamics play a key role in the story.
“It brings up a lot of questions about toxic masculinity and women’s voices and places in the world of men,” says Cora Vander Broek, who makes her Broadway debut playing life coach Jules.
“I didn't want to go in and do a takedown of somebody or any particular group,” said Letts. “At the same time I didn't want it to be a kind of foolish, meathead defensive of anybody either.” Director Dexter Bullard adds that there’s some observations about narcissism, male privilege, and ego that will be interesting for audiences to see.
3. Diversity on Broadway increases with new characters that better reflect our world.
One of the four female characters is Vietnamese, and the actor playing the role, Chantal Thuy, says she’s grateful to the playwright and even more excited to get messy. “She's not any stereotype that are portrayed in the media about what an Asian-American woman is," Thuy says. "She’s a rebel, inappropriate, doesn't have her shit together.”
4. There are a lot of words to describe the main character, Wheeler.
Ian Barford introduces his character as a “hilarious, smart, insightful, narcissistic, despicable, pathetic, noble, passionate, and [figuratively] blind.”
Letts, for his part, doesn’t judge Wheeler. “There’s a wonderful moment as a writer when a character kind of takes you by surprise and takes on a bit of their own life,” he says. “It's always a mysterious part of the creative process for me. It's easy to sort of stand back and moralize, but I like to just watch them behave.”
5. The cast has a long history together at Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
Several members of the cast come from Steppenwolf, including Letts, Barford, Sally Murphy, Caroline Neff, and Jim True-Frost.
Barford and Letts have known each other for over 30 years, with the former originating no less than four characters in the latter’s works, including August: Osage County, where he played opposite Murphy.
Murphy, who plays Wheeler’s ex and now-friend Margaret, says the third time around (Linda Vista had earlier runs in Chicago and L.A.) is easy because the characters are lived-in. The challenge lies in keeping the material fresh. “I catch myself sometimes and think, oh that's so old, you're just doing that because it’s easy.”
6. There are some cringey moments.
Audiences will see Wheeler make some questionable life choices throughout the play. “You go, ‘Oh no... no, don’t do that,” says playwright Letts.
Thuy says no subject is off-limits. It’s about “love addiction, sex addiction, cheating—the things that we're scared to discuss or even speak in private with our closest friends about.”
7. It’s an adult play that tackles how messy humans can be.
“It’s a little bit of a slow-motion train wreck,” says director Bullard, while Barford adds, “You get some insight into the painful process of learning hard lessons about our own blind spots.”
Broek says the play might make audiences uncomfortable but hopes it will get us to seek an answer to the new-age question: How do we stay connected and open in this crazy world of ours?
Linda Vista is currently in previews at Helen Hayes Theatre, with an opening set for October 10.