by: JK Clarke
We’ve all been there. We’re in a relationship that plods along with no direction and no enthusiasm on either side. Then our partner decides to end it, and we lose our composure. Absurd for a relationship that we never cared about, for some reason we grovel and try to repair and salvage it. In hindsight, there is nothing we can reflect on in our past that is more mortifying.
It’s at the height of one of these moments that we find — in The Amoralists’ production of Rantoul and Die at The Cherry Lane Theater—sad sack Rallis (played lovingly by Derek Ahonen). His wife, Debbie (a terse Sarah Lemp), has handed him divorce papers and has been, for weeks, repeatedly telling him to leave; as has his “best friend” Gary (Matthew Pilieci), who is imploring him to let the relationship go (for ulterior reasons, as it turns out) and move on with his life. But Rallis is pathetic, and prefers to sit on the ratty sofa under an ugly blanket and whine. There is only one thing that will motivate Rallis to get off the couch. And it’ll ruin everyone’s plans . . . to say the least.
What all the characters have in common is they’re all hopelessly deluded. They seem stuck in a post-high school world, even 10 or 15 years hence, where a career at a Dairy Queen seems plausible; or, where lusting after the hot, loose girl from homeroom class is a fantasy clung to, even though her light beer and nicotine habit has aged and yellowed her like an old book.
Writer Mark Roberts and Director Jay Stull don’t exactly shaggy-dog us, but after a first-half that’s filled with incisive and hilarious barbs and mid-western dysfunction, the turn of the second half is somewhat unexpected and the mood dips to a less lively and more serious tone.
Vanessa Vaché’s loveable and terrifying cat lady, Callie, is one of the strangest characters in memory, and she’s appropriately costumed (Jaime Torres) in an outfit that could win an unironic white trash kitsch contest.
Rantoul and Die has a lot in common with its namesake, the small Illinois town of Rantoul. It’s an amusing mess to look at, but when you peel away just one layer, and really take a good look, there’s a whole lot of sadness.
Photo: Russ Rowland
Rantoul and Die. Through July 20 at the Cherry Lane Theater, 38 Commerce Street. www.theamoralists.com