New vista for mid-life divorcé, latest take on Anne Frank

| January 31, 2019 | 0 Comments

Linda Vista by Tracy Letts (author of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning “August: Osage County”) takes place at the titular Linda Vista (translation: nice view) located near San Diego, California. Wheeler (Ian Barford) is in a full-blown mid-life crisis. Fifty years old, recently divorced with a problem child, he is attempting to make a life transition starting with a new habitat in a new location. He’s helped by his old friend Paul (Tim Hopper) as he moves into a new apartment. 

Wheeler was a professional photographer, now reduced to working in a camera store with Anita (Caroline Neff) and creepy owner Michael (Troy West). Paul and his wife Margaret (Sally Murphy) introduce Wheeler to Jules (Cora Vander Broek), an uber-positive life coach, the first of his sexual conquests. He goes from Jules to Minnie (Chantal Thuy), a young, pregnant Vietnamese girl, the second of his sexual conquests. 

This is a pitch-perfect cast, many of whom appeared in the Steppenwolf premiere production. Director Dexter Bullard keeps the comedic pace strong as the play moves through an almost cinematic collection of locations: Wheeler’s apartment, a karaoke club, various restaurants and bars, the camera store, etc. All of these are easily accessed on scenic designer Todd Rosenthal’s lazy-Susan of a rotating set. This is a very funny play especially in the first act where Wheeler shares his life philosophy. 

As the play progresses (through almost three hours with one intermission), the laughs are tempered with the seriousness of Wheeler’s situation. You can’t help but root for this angst-filled character, and the ending is hopeful. This play is for adults only and shows extensive frontal nudity, simulated sexual intercourse, and coarse language. 

Through Sun., Feb. 17. Mark Taper Forum, Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., 213-628-2772,      

4 Stars

• • •

The Empty Nesters by Garret Jon Groenveld centers on Greg (John “JW” Walker) and Frances (Pamela Gaye Walker), who have just sent their youngest child Jessica off to college and are searching for their new life. A trip to the Grand Canyon and specifically to the famous Skywalk frames their trouble adjusting to their new reality. 

The first scene takes place with them waiting in line to stand on the glass walkway that’s perched high on the rim of the canyon. Discussions of postcards, misplaced address books, etc. soon lead to the heart of the play, what’s next for them. The action moves to a café and eventually their hotel room. There are some laughs and the feel-good ending seems inevitable and right. But this evening belongs to the actors. Married in real life, John Walker and Pamela Gaye Walker bring nuanced performances and understanding to the characters that make this one-act worth seeing. 

Through Sun., Feb. 17. Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., 

3 Stars 

• • •

The Diary of Anne Frank by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett was a successful Broadway show in the 1950s, followed by a Hollywood movie. The play tells the story of the Frank family who, along with several other Jewish families, hid in an attic of an office building for years to avoid being captured by the Nazis occupying Amsterdam. 

Taken from the diary of the youngest daughter Anne, it relates the years of privation and starvation of 10 people under constant threat of capture by a brutal regime. 

The current production at The Complex (adaptation by Wendy Kesselman) features an all Latin cast. Comparing Latin families currently hiding from ICE in Safe Houses in Los Angeles, the play finds parallels to Anne’s story. 

Director Stan Zimmerman draws us in effectively as the cast members, clothed in monochromatic grey, begin by reading the play from Dramatists Play Service scripts. In a seamless transition in the first act, the actors lose the scripts and are dressed in era costumes (no costume design credited). This is an able cast, although the Latin accents are occasionally hard to understand. The play’s ending, as the final fate of all the characters is related, is particularly moving. 

Through Sun., Feb. 24. The Complex — Dorie Theatre, 6475 Santa Monica Blvd., 323-465-0383,

3 Stars

Tags: , ,

Category: Entertainment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *