Rantoul and Die

By Mark RobertsRantoul and die by mark roberts

Directed by Erin Quigley

Produced by American Blues Theater

At the Victory Gardens’ Richard Christiansen Theatre

Raw and gritty dark comedy features razor-sharp dialogue and spot-on comic timing

Leave it to the creatives at the American Blues Theater to come up with a fresh, raw dark comedy – Rantoul and Die by Mark Roberts – now in its Regional Premiere at the upstairs space at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater.  Written by a TV sitcom writer/producer, Mark Roberts (“Mike & Molly”), Rantoul and Die is far from a tame TV sitcom- rather it is a raw, foul-mouthed edgy dark comedy about four skankiets yet heartbreakingly real characters.

Rantoul and die by mark roberts

This is the story of the meltdown of four small town white trash 50somethings that finds Rallis (Alan Wilder) and his pal Gary (Francis Guinan) locked in a debate about life and death as Rallis once again attempts suicide. Rallis is a wake, pathetic nerd whose wife Debbie (Kate Buddeke) grows to hate him so much that she berates him into a divorce. Rallis simply won’t let her go. Gary, ever the blue collar philosopher, tries to explain life to his needy friend. The result is one of the wittiest yet edgy monologues I’ve heard on stage in years! Playwright Mark Roberts’ uniquely raw and vivid similes and metaphors spoken with spot-on timing by the fabulous Francis Guinan results in hilariously grim humor.

When Debbie (a haunting performance by Kate Buddeke) comes home, she rails on Rallis on how pathetic and useless he is and how he needs to get out of her life. He pleads, even begs for another chance but Debbie has had enough. Time to move on.  Events get wild ( I say no more.) Once we meet Callie (Cheryl Graeff in a scene stealing comic turn), the play really gets weird. The social center of Rantoul and these characters is the Diary Queen.

Rantoul and die by mark robertsRantoul and die by mark roberts

The 90 minute one-act is a lesson in contradictions: grim and funny, warm and icy violent, familiar and surprising as each character’s ugly side collides with their humanity with their super egos. The show is filled with four superb performances led by Guinan and Graeff’s terrific work. You’ll laugh while getting shocked by these losers caught up in self-imposed behavior designed for their mutual self-destruction.  The sheer ignorance and amorality of these four will be both abhorrent and hilarious as we journey with them to their abyss.  For something quite different, extremely well performed, and smartly written – be sure to catch Rantoul and Die – it’s make you want a Diary Queen stop on your way home.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: April 30, 2011

Jeff Recommended

For full show information, go to the page for Rantoul and Die at TheatreinChicago.

At Victory Gardens  Biograph Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773-871-3000, www.americanbluestheater.com, tickets $32 – $40, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through May 22, 2011