Dating Walter Dante at Raven Theatre | Theater review
Jon Steinhagen’s new play asks why any woman would date Drew Peterson—er, Walter Dante.
Following in Rob Lowe’s footsteps, Jon Steinhagen takes the Drew Peterson saga as inspiration for his new comedy-drama. Is it a love story? A ghost story? A mystery? Well, it depends whom you talk to. To Laura Bakersfield (Kristin Collins), Walter’s latest girlfriend, it’s a love story; to the detective on his tail (an excellent Antoine Pierre Whitfield), it’s a mystery. To the rest of us, it quickly becomes clear that Steinhagen hasn’t figured it out. Dating wants to be a comedy and a tragedy, a ghost tale and a romance; in the end, this lackluster look at the women who date Walter Dante fails on all counts.
As Laura, Collins offers such a nuanced and complicated portrayal of a woman in love that it may be hard to refute her testimony. Yes, love is an enigma, a kind of madness. Still, Laura is much too smart to date a suspected serial killer; it’s impossible to believe she might be one of Peterson’s—that is, Dante’s—desperate, deluded women. Moreover, nothing much seems compelling about Dante himself (Jason Huysman); he’s hardly poetic (I hoped the name meant something beyond the obvious). Steinhagen seems to want us to care about him, at least a little bit, but we have little reason.
It’s to Steinhagen’s credit that his interest seems to be in the complexities of female desire; why, indeed, do so many women delude themselves in love? Yet his pursuit of this question falls flat, particularly as the script turns toward sitcomish dialogue and short scenes and monologues that stall the play’s movement.