Rantoul and Die. Cherry Lane Studio Theatre (see Off Broadway). By Mark Roberts. Directed by Jay Stull. With Matthew Pilieci, Derek Ahonen, Sarah Lemp, Vanessa Vaché. Running time: 1hr 50mins. One intermission.
Rantoul and Die: plot synopsis
The unpredictable Amoralists present Mark Roberts's play about a marriage on the rocks. Jay Stull directs; the cast comprises company members Derek Ahonen, Sarah Lemp, Matthew Pilieci and Vanessa Vaché.
Rantoul and Die: theater review by Jenna Scherer
The black humor and casual violence of Mark Roberts’s 2011 play fit downtown provocateurs the Amoralists like a glove. Sad sack Rallis (Ahonen) is the moaning, off-brand-Froot-Loops–chomping nucleus around which the action revolves. His fed-up wife, Debbie (Lemp), is trying her damnedest to leave him; in response, he attempts a half-cocked suicide. While he grows grass on the couch, both Debbie and his excitable buddy Gary (Pilieci, in a push-broom goatee) try to bully him into some kind of action. The ensuing mayhem traffics chiefly in shock value and belly laughs, and it’s delightful.
Set in Illinois, Rantoul and Die paints a vivid portrait of rust-belt ambitions and decay. (It’s a point of pride for Debbie and her perky manager, Callie [Vaché], that they don’t just work at a DQ, but a flagship DQ.) With their trashy tracksuits, custard-thick accents and casual disregard for others, Roberts’s characters are not people to admire, but director Jay Stull and his ensemble make them as sympathetic as they are despicable. Lemp adds a luminous vulnerability to the tough, embittered Debbie, and Vaché switches gears effortlessly between hilarity and horror. Pilieci and Ahonen do less subtle work, but hit all of Roberts’s hard-knock beats.
Alfred Schatz’s set and Jaime Torres’s costumes are impressively disgusting, and the fast-and-nasty pace slows down at just the right moments. Rantoul and Die whips up a particularly American blend of desperation and disappointment, so potent you can almost smell it: a rotten-sweet mélange of bad beer, unwashed hair, cigarettes, Slurpees and tears.—Theater review by Jenna Scherer
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