Why We DON'T Fight: A Sad Sack's Tale

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater

In the character of Wheeler (played by Steppenwolf stalwart Ian Barford), Tracy Letts has managed to capture the essence of a 20th century man living in the 21st century in Linda Vista at the Mark Taper Forum. The rules have changed with no clear-cut set of replacements for them. Just like the tremors under our feet, Southern California might seem to be the appropriate place to encounter this dilemma. Set in San Diego, for no other apparent reason other than terrific sunsets, Lett’s Linda Vista takes his hapless Everyman from a recent divorce through two groping relationships and finally to some sort of self-reconciliation.

Director Dexter Bullard keeps the focus on Wheeler as he navigates his new life, first with Jules (Cora Vander Broek), a life coach, who does not seem to be doing much for her own life; and then, a pregnant waif named Minnie (Chantal Thuy). Through each of these relationships, our picture of Wheeler deepens. He wants to do the right thing by everyone, but he invariably becomes entangled by his own sense of imperative. Ultimately, he performs a chivalric yet destructive attempt to protect co-worker, Anita (Caroline Neff)

Whether one considers it gratuitous or not, Letts chooses to provide us with a bird's-eye view of a hilarious sexual adventure as Wheeler makes tentative movement toward singlehood. Rather than being titillating, his encounter with Jules proves to be decidedly mismatched.

The setting, designed by Todd Rosenthal, struggles to reconcile the Mark Taper’s oddly shaped space with Letts’ cinematic flow of action. Using a revolving stage and a set of swinging set pieces, scenes move from the central location, a barely furnished apartment, to work space and on to the great outdoors. His camera shop setting is most successful, meticulously dressed with repair store’s messy realism. But the plain-wrap set-pieces seem dominated by the dimensional backdrop from Marcus Doshi, lighted to indicate those gorgeous sunsets, or deepening, soft nights, or the bright daylight.

Letts’ play boasts a wonderful sound track by Richard Woodbury, grounding the time period with references to Steely Dan and the Bee Gee’s “Islands in the Stream” or Radiohead. However, the costumes by Laura Bauer provide subtle, not blatant reminders of the times.

Linda Vista: continues Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 pm and Saturdays at 2:30 pm and 8 pm; and Sundays at 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm through February 17th, 2019 at the Mark Taber Forum, located in the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles 90012. Tickets range from $30.00 to $95.0.  Purchase online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org, or in person at Center Theatre Group box office.