Everything about Wheeler (Ian Barford), the man at the center of Tracy Letts' new play Linda Vista is pretty repellent. One the most unlikeable characters you may ever encounter, a once good photographer stuck in a job working at a camera store where the boss objectifies his fellow employee, Anita (Caroline Neff), and a womanizer who screws himself over by wanting to have his cake and eat it too; Wheeler is not your typical protagonist of a play.
Letts' work feels more like the beginning of a TV sitcom, rather than the opening to a Broadway. The humor, completely unadulterated in every way and rare for a new play, makes you wonder if Wheeler is a character who we will get to see redeem himself as the play moves forward. Spoiler alert: he only gets worse. And while Wheeler is trying to find his place in the lives of two very different women, life coach Jules (Cora Vander Broek) and young pregnant Minnie (Chantal Thuy); the only people who call him out on his behavior are the women he has no chance of being with, whose characters are sorely underdeveloped.
It's not easy to like, or even tolerate, Wheeler as the story progresses. But one hopes that maybe, by the time the play ends after nearly three hours, that he is on a path towards something resembling redemption. And while he probably won't be able to set himself completely straight, you can still sense a smaller glimmer of hope, just with the click of a camera.