Sometimes the right cast can elevate a play that in lesser hands wouldn’t be as enjoyable. With Right On at Horizon Theatre, this is such a case. Each one of the talented ensemble creates strong characters that carry the play and draws the audience into the story with ease.
Written by Darren Canady, Right On tells the story of five college friends and activists who come back to the campus 30 years later for homecoming. The four ladies and one man struggle to keep their fractured and at times tenuous relationship with Bella (Donna Biscoe), who feels wronged by the group. Complicating the situation is Bella’s son and his apparent lack of appreciation for the freedom his parents’ generation fought for.
In addition to Biscoe, the cast includes Marguerite Hannah as Sharonda, Tonia M. Jackson as Janice, Minka Wiltz as Patrice, LaParee Young as Ronald, and Dane Troy as Bella’s son Kyle. A better cast could not have been assembled. Together, this group fires on all cylinders, building on one another’s talent and energy under the direction of Thomas W. Jones II.
As the strong-willed Bella, Biscoe makes playing the complex role seem easy. She gives the character likeable qualities and draws sympathy from the audience as she moves through a variety of emotions. Wiltz’s Patrice captures the audience’s attention with her confidence and directness. When these two actresses have intense moments, you will see some of the best acting that can be found on an Atlanta stage. There’s a depth to the layered portrayals where you can’t help but feel their hurt while witnessing their anger.
The concept of the drama is interesting and Canady explores the generation gap to a degree, but that idea gets lost in the melodramatic arguments of the four ladies. Like a novel, there are a number of subplots, such as Kyle’s Bipolar Disorder. At times these subplots present themselves awkwardly and predictably.
Also, helping to pull the story together is an interesting conceit. While in college the group performed a musical show called “Right On.” Attempting to reconnect to their past and feel purpose again, the ladies want to restage it at the reunion. These scenes of singing and dancing are the most enjoyable and display the immense talent of the ladies in the cast.
Despite its narrative flaws, the show still connects with audiences. The light-hearted moments, the underlying feel good story, the music, and a flashy ending contribute to a crowd-pleasing formula for the production.
Right On plays through August 31, 2014 at Horizon Theatre. For tickets and more information, please visit the theater’s website. The show’s runtime is about two and half hours with an intermission.
– Kenny Norton