Review: Rightlynd (Victory Gardens Theater)

| November 21, 2018

Monica Orozco, Jerome Beck and Anish Jethmalani star in Rightlynd, Victory Gardens Theater    



Written by Ike Holter
VG Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Dec 30  |  tix: $27-$55  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

Now extended thru December 30th


Ike Holter premiere is predictable but solid


Anish Jethmalani, Jerome Beck, Sasha Smith, Monica Orozco, Eddie Martinez, Harris, Cornelius

Victory Gardens Theater presents

Review by Lauren Emily Whalen

Ike Holter is on a white-hot streak.

The Chicago playwright’s Hit the Wall just opened in New York at the Stonewall Inn. Victory Gardens Theater’s Rightlynd is the first of three premieres of Holter’s work this season – the next two will be at Steep and Goodman. Holter is also a writer on the upcoming FX show Fosse/Verdon.

Sasha Smith and Jerome Beck star in Rightlynd by Ike Holter at Victory Gardens TheaterAll good things for a talented writer who deserves every success. And of course, artists know to strike when the iron is hot, to say yes to jobs and commissions that may be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. However, sometimes the saying “too much of a good thing” is accurate. That’s not to say Holter is overexposed, but burnout may be on the horizon. Rightlynd is part of Holter’s Chicago cycle, the story of a newly-minted alderman who’s in over her head from day one. The story is predictable but solid, the characters compelling, the setting quite literally close to home. Unfortunately what could be great is merely good, thanks to several unnecessary and drawn-out sequences and production values, along with a general sense of both Holter and director Lisa Portes trying much too hard.

Nina Esposito (Monica Orozco) is a lifelong resident of Rightlynd, a Chicago neighborhood that’s seen much better days. Businesses are failing, the CTA stop has shut down and the area is on the verge of gentrification thanks to the Applewood Corporation. Incensed, Nina runs for election against the (white) incumbent and wins, thanks in part to help from local drug dealer Amena (LaKecia Harris). But as Nina struggles to balance her new duties and falls in love with gentle ex-con Pac (Eddie Martinez), she finds that even the most idealistic politicians are not immune to corruption.

Anish Jethmalani and Monica Orozco star in Rightlynd by Ike Holter, Victory Gardens Theater Monica Orozco and Sasha Smith star in Rightlynd by Ike Holter, Victory Gardens TheaterMonica Orozco, Jerome Beck and Anish Jethmalani star in Rightlynd, Victory Gardens TheaterCornelius, Harris, Eddie Martinez, Anish Jethmalani, Monica Orozco, Jerome Beck and Sasha Smith

Holter’s writing and Portes’ direction shine the brightest in Rightlynd’s more intimate scenes. As Nina bargains with local mechanic Robinson (Robert Cornelius), navigates a tentative connection with journalist Benny (Anish Jethmalani) or lovingly banters with Pac, Rightlynd’s spirit of community comes rushing to the surface. The results are emotional and achingly real, especially to Chicagoans who are all too familiar with gentrification or in many cases have experienced it firsthand. Holter’s characters speak in a rough yet poetic language all their own, beautiful to the ear. Orozco’s Nina is charismatic yet cunning, increasingly aware of underhanded deals at City Hall and willing to save her home at any cost.

If Rightlynd were only this, the production would have shone brighter than the Chicago skyline.

Instead, neither Holter nor Portes seem capable of editing their grand ideas. Instead of letting the characters tell their story, both playwright and director overstuff the production with gimmicks. Though a dancing-in-the-street sequence with Nina and Pac is incredibly charming, Rightlynds other musical numbers (yes, there are more than one) detract from the play’s inherent poignancy and dark humor. A climactic fight sequence is too bloated and fantastical to take seriously and so many of the play’s one-liners, though witty, seem out of context. One of Rightlynds loveliest moments takes place early on: when Pac, newly released from prison, tells the guard to forget the bus ticket because he’s “already home.” As he looks around at the devastated, much-changed neighborhood, face full of wonder and regret, the audience sees what a pared-down, less over-the-top Rightlynd could truly be.

Rating: ★★★

Rightlynd continues through December 23rd December 30th at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map), with performances Tuesdays-Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 3pm & 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $27-$55, and are available by phone (773-871-3000) or online through their website (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at time: 95 minutes without intermission)

The cast of Rightlynd by Ike Holter, Victory Gardens Theater

Photos by Liz Lauren 




Jerome Beck (Applewood, Denizen 1), Robert Cornelius (Robinson, Denizen 5), LaKecia Harris (Amina, Denizen 2), Anish Jethmalani (Platt, Denizen 4), Eddie Martinez (Pac), Monica Orozco (Nina), Sasha Smith (Manda, Denizen 3)

behind the scenes

Lisa Portes (director), Collette Pollard (scenic design), Samantha Jones (costume design), Jared Gooding (lighting design), Mikhail Fiksel (sound design, additional composition), Eleanor Kahn (props design), Skyler Gray (dramaturg), Jaq Seifert (fight director), Breon Arzell (fight choreography), Mara Sagal (production stage manager), Charlie Coffeen (original songs), Liz Lauren (photos)

Eddie Martinez and Monica Orozco star in Rightlynd by Ike Holter, Victory Gardens Theater


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Category: 2018 Reviews, Biograph Theatre, Extensions-Remounts, Ike Holter, Lauren Emily Whalen, New Work, Victory Gardens, World Premier

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