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Tracy Letts' "Linda Vista" in Los Angeles
Posted by: BillEadie 03:45 pm EST 02/11/19

Tracy Letts' play, "Linda Vista," is being produced at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Supposed set in a San Diego neighborhood whose name roughly says, "Beautiful View," the play portrays a group of characters, most middle-aged, who have experienced loss of hopes and dreams and are in various stages of recovering from that loss. The cast consists mostly of Steppenwolf Theatre Company members and features a remarkable leading performance by Ian Barford. But the characters could come from anywhere, and if I had to place them I would put many if not most in Chicago. Mr. Letts' writing is funny and loose in a good way, and his insights about people who are re-examining their lives after losing all or part of their dreams ring true. I was surprised to see two extended, full view, nude scenes, neither of which were gratuitous but both of which made me wish I could stop watching them before they ended.

Regarding setting the play in San Diego, I suppose that one can put a play anywhere that makes sense. Perhaps Mr. Letts thinks that people go to San Diego to re-examine their dreams, and I imagine that some do. But, it doesn't seem to me to be a defining quality of the city where I live. And, there are some mismatches that would make a local wince. The background in Todd Rosenthal's scenic design is an iconic photograph of the downtown San Diego skyline. But it's taken from Coronado Island (I know the location well). Linda Vista has, from some locations, views of Mission Bay, canyons, Mission Valley, and perhaps the mountains to the east, but you can't see downtown from there.

Also there's a story about an audience watching outdoor Shakespeare near the San Diego Zoo and being inundated with a foul smell. The outdoor Shakespeare venue adjoining the zoo is one of The Old Globe's stages. It was first built in the wake of a fire that destroyed the Globe's original building, and the city let the Globe keep the space after they rebuilt. Particularly in the early years there was tension between the Globe and the Zoo about how each affected the other, but I never read anything about a foul smell disrupting a performance (and, given that the smell supposedly came from burning, there are long-standing laws against disposal by burning that make such an event unlikely). I double-checked with Welton Jones, dean of San Diego theatre critics, and he has no memory of such an incident. Again, the story could have been invented for Mr. Letts' purposes, but other than the fact that Shakespeare is performed in the summer near the zoo, the rest of it doesn't make sense.

And, of course, performing this show in Los Angeles is fine, but, in my experience (and as a person who lived there for many years), most people who live in Los Angeles think of San Diego only as a nice place to visit. Perhaps that's the point.

Bill, in San Diego
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