The first amendment of the Bill of Rights is perhaps the most debated article in the U.S. Constitution; in particular, the right to free speech. Where do we draw the line between what can and cannot be said?
“Right To Be Forgotten” by Sharyn Rothstein, directed by Sarah Gitenstein, explores the double-edged sword of liberalism. Scenic designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec creates an atmosphere that mimics a giant, wraparound computer display. Websites, text messages and social media pages projected onto three walls fill in the story between scenes.
Derril Lark (Adam Shalzi) is the stereotypical nerd. Witty and intelligent, one would never guess that this meek, wiry individual could be the cause of so much pain and anguish. At seventeen, Derril stalked a female classmate at his high school, causing her severe emotional trauma. The news of his behavior went viral on the internet. His past leaves him unable to procure a decent job or have a meaningful relationship.
Justice served, right? Not so fast! An anonymous author has maintained a popular blog documenting Lark’s continued bad behavior, except that it’s all half-truths and lies. Ten years after, Derril takes on the Sisyphean quest to have his history erased from the internet.
He turns to liberal lawyer Marta Lee (Susaan Jamshidi), who helps him pro bono, hoping to set a landmark legal precedent in a highly publicized court case. In response, the tech industry sends out a big gun lawyer and former colleague of Marta’s, Annie Zahirovic (Lucy Carapetyan). Both lawyers wield righteous indignation like a weapon, chopping off parts of each other’s arguments before devolving into blackmail and ad hominem attacks.
Marta and Derril try to embroil the State Attorney General, Alvaro Santos (Kroydell Galima), who agrees to take on Big Tech on one condition, that the woman whom Derril harassed publicly forgive him. A tense meeting with the victim, Eve Selinsky (Jamila Tyler), goes well, and it looks like Derril’s life is back on track—he even has a potential new girlfriend, a fellow “weirdo,” Sarita Imari (Kelsey Elyse Rodriguez).
But there is a twist, and then another, and another… Nearly every scene reveals information that changes who you root for. Each sharp turn leaves you guessing what might happen next, and no one is as they seem at first blush.
What makes this dark comedy pack a punch is that every line is delivered completely straight—no mugging necessary. Each character is a clearly defined archetype, and the humor comes not from slack-jawed pandering, but from the relatable absurdity of the situation. Gitenstein’s direction toward dryness allows every line of Rothstein’s script to shine on its own merits.
“Right To Be Forgotten” is both of its time and timeless and will have you question your own beliefs about what should and shouldn’t be said, and who gets to control the flow of information.
“Right To Be Forgotten” at Raven Theatre, 6157 North Clark, $40, raventheatre.com, (773)338-2177. Discount tickets ($15) are available for students, active military and veterans. $30 discount tickets are available February 16-26 for Chicago Theatre Week. Through April 2.