Pictured: The cast of RIGHTLYND. Photo by Liz Lauren.
By Sheri Flanders
An electrifyingly entertaining journey into the dark heart of the Chicago Political Machine, Rightlynd by Ike Holter is a rollicking fun good time. This comic surrealist romp follows Nina, (played by a pitch-perfect Monica Orozco) a naive Ocasio-Cortez-like plucky young go-getter as she rallies Chicago’s mythical 51st Ward in a race for Alderman.
Unlike Holter’s Lottery Day, which provided a luxurious and personal character study of individuals in a community, Rightlynd is meta, more ideas and concepts speaking to each other through the mouths of people. What does it take to enact change? Can the little guy go up against the Establishment? Is the impossible worth fighting for? What is the process to run for office? What exactly does an Alderman do, anyway? Holter answers with bite, sass, and…musical numbers?
A grittier version of August Wilson’s Radio Golf, the story is predictable, yet the real star is the rapid-fire, hilarious method of storytelling. Rightlynd is not a play that takes itself too seriously, and at times is staged like comic book panels, evoking a Sin City feel. As the tone toggles between satire and sincerity, this pop-culture salad tarts up a deadly serious and tragic story. That political wicket is too sticky for a play to solve, and Rightlynd knows it, operating like a Rubik’s Cube, turning over, and over again in a futile yet fun rotation.
Eddie Martinez is wonderful as Pac, providing the most unique and compelling portrait of a man fighting hard for a second chance. LaKecia Harris is cleverly cast as Amena in a role that would traditionally go to a man, providing compassion where there would often be none. And Jerome Beck is deliciously evil as the community developer with promises to revitalize, even as he destroys.
Hopping from poetry, to play, to musical, to cinematic Family Guy-style self-aware cutaways, Holter breaks theatrical convention in a way that few established playwrights dare. Rightlynd is an irreverent triumph of style innovation that serves as an arrow for the future of modern theatre.
Rightlynd runs November 9-December 23 at Victory Gardens Theatre 2433 N. Lincoln. For more information visit victorygardens.org.