Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Sunday, June 23

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Review: It's such a beautiful day My Chicago Bucket List: Stop Making Fun of Hipsters »

Theater Mon Feb 27 2012

Dating Walter Dante @ Raven Theatre


(left to right) Antoine Pierre Whitefield, Brigitte Ditmars, Kristin Collins, Stacie Barra, Michael Boone & Scott Allen Luke. Photo Courtesy of the Raven Theatre

"It's a love story," "No, it's a mystery," "No, it's a comedy," "...a comedy-drama,", "It's a drama about a love story"....

Those first few lines of dialogue from writer's Jon Steinhagen's "Dating Walter Dante" are equally poignant and ironic, for the Raven Theater's presentation could have been a superlative suspense drama rather than a mostly good stage play.

Steinhagen writes a story in need of flushing out in one direction; my vote is the dramatic, if only for the fact that the story of Walter Dante plays out as a lurid, blood-soak-sexed-up "get ya' villains and victims right here folks!" in perpetual rotation with every newscast and Nancy Grace minstrel show.

It's a now-daily offering in our society: well-to-do fellow's wife comes up missing and/or dead. The poor girl didn't (seem) to have an enemy in the world. Her husband is the last to see her alive. There's a body that tells no tales, or a body that has evaporated in the planetary ether. Yep, the husband did it. He had to have done it. Why? Because who else would/could/needed to do it? Why? Because we say so, that's mostly why.

Walter Dante (Jason Huysman) has the worst luck ever; he has the fate of two wives to account for. The second Mrs. Dante is missing without a trace of life or death to be found. The first Mrs. Dante, Ellen (Stacie Barra), lingers around in ghostly form, watching over Walter and his new girlfriend Laura Bakersfield (Kristin Collins), sharing what she can remember of her death and life with the audience, and what she remembers is fading fast, leaving us to ponder, is Ellen responsible for her ghostly presence, or as Walter attempts a new life, will Ellen disappear when her memory is replaced in Walter's (and the viewing audience) with the next missing/dead wife case.

Police detective Russell Gibbs (Antoine Pierre Whitfield) knows Dante is guilty for the murder of Ellen and the disappearance/probable murder of the unnamed second wife. So sure is Gibbs he has Ellen's body exhumed (Barra makes you ache as her ghostly self describes her exhumation, making the most militant non-believer think that there may be something to this whole after-life nonsense). Gibbs gets his payoff when new tests indicate that Ellen was indeed murdered, and Gibbs goes into full overdrive to "catch" Dante by any means necessary, including Walter's new love Laura, whose friends -- the unhappily married couple Suzanne and Harper, and Laura's ex-husband Sam -- blow a gasket, think out the worst case scenarios and plot to end Laura's romance with Walter, before Walter, they fear, will end Laura.

Laura is earnest in her feelings for Walter, and those feelings are returned in equal measure. But there is that lingering malaise for Laura's friends, her ex, Gibbs, and even Walter: why does Laura trust Walter so much? Why does she believe in his innocence? Even the ghostly Ellen pays a late-night visit to ask Laura what everyone else has asked before. Ellen gives Laura no reason to believe that Ellen met her demise at the hands of Walter, but still what is wrong with a woman that wants pursue love and life with a man who's got an army of police detectives on his trail and 24-hour news network satellite trucks salivating at the opportunity to finally film his downfall? Kristin Collins in quiet marvel presents Laura as just a nice girl who wants the perfect man, and she's finally found him in Walter - but doesn't everyone of us have a past?

Friends Suzanne and Harper (Brigitte Ditmars and Michael Boone) and ex Sam (Scott Allen Luke) get wind of the couple's first getaway, and in panic, pursue them to the falling leaves and bed and breakfasts of Michigan. I felt for Ditmar and Boone, as Walter Dante should have walked the road of a suspense drama - their characters were written for slapstick, comic relief, and left me wanting more Ellen, Walter, Laura; even Gibbs and Sam had a higher dramatic stakehold in the fate of Walter and Laura (and Ellen and the wife that disappeared). Their bickering dialogue and "Fred & Ethel" insults made me think - "divorce attorney, next exit, turn left at off ramp". The "comedy" was out-of-context in a production that carries so much weight ripped from daily headlines and TV screen tickers.

Their Michigan weekend seals the fate of Walter and Laura's relationship, but leaves the door cracked with uncertainty for everything, as it was destined to play out by the police-wisdom of Gibbs and the relief of ex-husband Sam. Along with every character, we're left to wonder what we're left with, what and whom were we dealing with, which is not so different than the beginning and eventual end of every fine romance.

Dating Walter Dante is playing at the Raven Theatre now through March 24. Tickets and information are available at or 773-338-2177.

GB store
GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


An Angry White Guy
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Devening Projects
DIY Film
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Mess Hall
Neoteric Art
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
The Seen
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

GB store



A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.

About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Nancy Bishop,
A/C staff inbox:



A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15