Where It All Goes Down In A Backyard Barbeque!


Everyone loves a good cookout. A place where you can hang out with your family and friends, eat some tasty food while listening to music, and partaking in some great conversations. However, what happens when you plan the party of the century with a huge cash incentive, only to see it unexpectedly turn out to be nothing like you imagined. What happens when that amazing plan to hide behind the mask of your sorrows takes a swift turn for the worst? You create an unforgettable performance!

Goodman Theatre’s Lottery Day is a cookout masterpiece. It’s a high-spirited, funny and emotional drama that will have you laughing all the way home and reminiscing at your next cookout.

Playwright Ike Holter is known for his seven-play series the ‘Rightlynd Saga’ which includes (Hit The Wall, Exit Strategy, Sender, Prowess, The Wolf at The End Of The Bock, and Red Rex) shares his last entry in his series, Lottery Day; which takes place in a rapidly redeveloped neighborhood near the Westside in Chicago.

Focused around the matriarch, Mallory (J. Nicole Brooks) who runs the neighborhood, knows everyone’s secrets and she is a person that is never afraid to use that knowledge to get what she wants; however, in this cookout, she wants to give back a large sum of cash, but there is a catch. You have to play a few games, and these competitive events will bring out the best and worst in those willing to win.


Mallory has had many legendary cookouts, but this cookout helps her hide from the past, the fear that the changing neighborhood will forget people like her. The gun violence that has torn her apart and left her devastated by the noises of a fragmented city, and the tragedy of her loss; which resulted in her never wanting to be alone in her house. She also can’t stand her regentrification neighbor named Vivien (Michele Vazquez) who is always peaking down at Mallory in her oversized window; however, this party is going to be epic.

The cookout that was filled with food, fireworks, liquor, and pot, let the good times roll as politics, and open conversations met with suppressed pain awaits each guest. To top it off, Vivien comes over to visit Mallory, after a brief discussion about child custody (Mallory had to let her know don’t start any mess, because, I’m letting you know, I know, your business) she invited her to the barbeque. Mallory’s intentions to revitalize her life long community could be the very thing that will keep it separated; leaving her the last one standing and having to overcome her fears alone.

Ike Holter remarkably brings to focus, the issues that plague Chicago in this larger-than-life melodrama with a right blend of seriousness and humor that captivates the audience. He also brings back many of the cast he used in previous plays. This recycling of some of the actors from his former plays, which doesn’t always work, works like a charm in Lottery Day. Tori, a character from “Red Rex,” an earlier play in the seven-play series, played by Aurora Adachi-Winter and the teacher Ricky, a character from “Exit Strategy,” played by Pat Whalen makes appearances; and they were fantastic. We love Whalen, Carol Burnett wit and mannerisms.


Director Lili-Anne Brown excellent cast brilliantly represented the affliction that Holter wanted to portray in the ethnic arrogation of a gentrifying neighborhood, where friends are pitted against one another to find hidden treasure buried in Mallory’s backyard.

The phenomenal Sydney Charles who plays the fast-talking Zora is always a must-see performer. She brings to life each character she plays and in ‘Lottery Day,’ this cane walking sister is one of the funniest people at the party. Steppenwolf ensemble member, James Vincent Meredith plays everyone’s favorite uncle (mind you no one is blood-related) Avery, Mallory’s deceased husband best friend and the best cook and handyman in the neighborhood. Avery and Mallory have a love jones for each other; however, Avery has a secret lover at the cookout that shocks everyone.

The acting by all, which includes Mckenzie Chinn, Tommy Rivera-Vega, Tony Santiago and the hilarious Robert Cornelius is superb. There are times when multiple characters are speaking at once; however, they intermingle well producing an excellent night of theater.

Let’s Play ‘Highly Recommend’ Lottery Day at Goodman Theatre.

Goodman Theatre
Lottery Day
Written by: Ike Holter
Directed by: Lili-Anne Brown
MARCH 29 – APRIL 28)
Where: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St.
Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Tickets: $15-$49 at 312-443-3800 or

Filed under: ChicagoNow

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