Directed by Cody Estle
At Raven Theatre’s West Stage
Dark comedy stirs passion and prejudgment
Prolific Chicago playwright Jon Steinhagen’s latest work is a deliciously cunning dark comedy inspired by the real life case of Drew Petersen. It is a wicked take on our tenancy to prejudge celebrity news events, especially when we know someone involved with the hated celebrity.
Walter Dante’s (Jason Huysman) first wife may or may not have died accidentally and now his second wife is missing without a trace. The police continue to harass Dante but he keeps his cool, almost detached from their constant presence in his life. He is forced to retire early from his construction employment; becoming a virtual prisoner in his own home. The press follows him constantly since he is a hated man – a murderer?
Laura Bakersfield (Kristin Collins) shocks her friends and her ex by dating Walter Dante. Laura is smitten by the gentle, soft-spoken Dante. After coming off a nasty divorce from the hyper Sam Brunner (Scott Allen Luke), Laura is totally enchanted, even in love with Walter. Laura’s best friend Suzanne Liff (Brigitte Ditmars) becomes frantic, even obsessed with stopping Laura from dating Dante. Together with her equally obsessive husband Harper (Michael Boone), the couple goes to extreme lengths to try to prevent Laura and Walter from becoming a couple, and, the third victim of Dante’s. Add the chilling hard-nosed detective Russell Gibbs (Antoine Pierre Whitfield) and Dating Walter Dante unfolds as a gripping dark comedy and mystery. Stacie Barra adds complexity and foreboding as Ellen, Dante’s now departed first wife. Doubts persist.
Despite an over-the-top performance from Brigitte Ditmars as Suzanne and a much too tepid turn from Laura, Dating Walter Dante contains doses of nervous laughter as we strive to solve the main question: Is Dante a murder or is he a victim of circumstance? Did coincidence and media hype condemn him before any evidence of wrong doing is discovered? Steinhagen cleverly designed a story that rings with truth since media hype affects our prejudgement once a person enters the spotlight. We rush to judgment when publicity shines on events, especially the possibility of murder. But are we gullible?
This 80 minute one-act dramatizes the fact that reality may not live up to the prejudgment. When another strange event happens, more doubts arise concerning Walter Dante. The mystery unfolds leaning toward more speculation as if real life often doesn’t follow a script. Is he a victim of media hype or a cold-blooded killer? See this show and judge for your self.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: February 12, 2012
Fro more info checkout the Dating Walter Dante page on theatreinchicago.com
At Raven Theatre’s West Stage, 6157 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL, call 773-338-2177, www.raventheatre.com, tickets $30, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:30 pm, Sundays at 3:30 pm, running time is 80 minutes without intermission, through March 24, 2012