Theater review by Alex Huntsberger
The final play in Ike Holter’s seven-show Rightlynd Saga, Lottery Day is the rare team-up event that hits the jackpot. Pulling in characters from the previous plays—Exit Strategy, Sender, Prowess, The Wolf at the End of the Block, Rightlynd and Red Rex—Lottery Day builds on its predecessors with an eye toward tearing the whole complex to the ground.
Holter’s characters have gathered for a backyard barbecue hosted by local matriarch Mallory (J. Nicole Brooks, in a titanic performance). As the unofficial mayor of Holter’s fictional Chicago neighborhood of Rightlynd—or at least the few remaining parts that haven’t been flipped into condos—Mallory is a wily but big-hearted figure. She’s ready with a beer and a spare couch to crash on, but she’s not above casual blackmail. And while Mallory throws the best damn parties in town, this get-together is more than that: It’s a chance for her to set things right—or so she thinks.
Holter’s declamatory dialogue is as electric as ever, with his characters talking over, around and through each other at blazing speed—many of the conversations seem more like dueling speeches—and director Lili-Anne Brown guides the wordplay and the actors with equal aplomb. (After a long career in a storefront, her work on Lottery Day feels like a leveling-up.) Chicago actors clearly relish performing in Holter’s plays, and this group is no exception. McKenzie Chinn, Pat Whalen, Aurora Adachi-Winter, Robert Cornelius and the indomitable Sydney Charles return to characters they played in previous Rightlynd installments; James Vincent Meredith makes a sterling new addition as Mallory’s stalwart neighbor.
While Lottery Day centers on the fraying bonds of communities both large and small, it’s remarkable how much joy exudes from the connections among these characters and the actors who play them. Arnel Sancianco’s backyard set—complete with a butt-ugly condo next door—subtly conjures a sense of home. As much as the Rightlynd Saga has been about lamenting the people and places that are being pushed aside in modern Chicago, Holter’s plays have not been mournful. They rage and cackle and sing; Lottery Day even features a full-on dance number. The whole cycle is one long wake, and what it lacks in hope, it makes up in spirit—and in lots and lots of spirits. Five years after Exit Strategy kicked the party off, Lottery Day is here to close it down. This is last call. Get in while you can.
Goodman Theatre. By Ike Holter. Directed by Lili-Anne Brown. With J. Nicole Brooks, James Vincent Meredith. Running time: 2hrs 5mins. One intermission.