Love, you may have heard, is a complex emotion that can coerce an otherwise rational being into acting in a logic-defying manner.
Love is so unyielding in its grip that even the most ambiguous scenarios can be rendered concrete in one’s eyes if the enigmatic subject is an object of affection.
Take for instance, the arresting plot of Dating Walter Dante, a dramatic comedy performing at the Raven Theatre in Chicago (6157 N. Clark St.).
Writer Jon Steinhagen and director Cody Estle offer a twist on the heavily documented Drew Peterson saga by painting the Peterson-inspired Walter Dante (a charming Jason Huysman) as an almost sympathetic figure, which is probably the last description one might offer about Peterson.
At least, that’s how the audience is led to perceive Dante. In the play’s realm, Dante is viewed by the characters (specifically, a dogged detective played by Antoine Pierre Whitfield) as a murderer because of the “accidental” drowning death of his first wife and the sudden disappearance of his second wife.
Despite Dante’s haunted grimace and angst-ridden demeanor suggesting he may be innocent of any wrongdoing, it’s difficult to believe his story thanks to the public’s real-life disdain of Peterson. The ghostly visage of Dante’s deceased first wife (Stacie Barra), who watches the action unfold with a sorrowful detachment (and strangle marks on her neck), doesn’t help his cause either.
The lone soul who steadfastly stands behind Dante is his girlfriend Laura (an earnest Kristin Collins), who despite the meddling objections of her ex-husband Sam (Scott Allen Luke), and her married friends Suzanne (Brigitte Ditmars) and Harper (Michael Boone), falls deeper in love with Dante in each scene.
Logically, a woman of Laura’s presumed intellect might view Dante’s suspected serial killing resume as a reason to explore alternate romantic avenues. In this case though, the heart overwhelms the mind and whatever misgivings she once had about Dante’s guilt vanish, even if the evidence remains indeterminate.
Speaking of which, those who sport a fondness for closure may find the play’s final act frustrating. Collins’ stirring performance however, coupled with an unexpected plot detour, gives the show a satisfying, if slightly opaque conclusion.
That, sadly, cannot be said about the Peterson case.