DEAD ACCOUNTS Music Box Theatre Nobert Leo Butz as (Jack) and Katie Holmes as (Lorna,) in a scene from the Broadway play DEAD ACCOUNTS. HANDOUT Photo by Joan Marcus(Photo: Joan Marcus)
NEW YORK -- In Theresa Rebeck's new play, Dead Accounts (* * * out of four), there really are two Americas. But we're not separated into haves and have-nots, or red and blue states.
out it's even starker than that, and more geographically limited:
Friends, we are a nation divided between Midwesterners and
The central character, Jack -- played with
characteristic vigor and wit by stage veteran Norbert Leo Butz -- is a
man torn between these two identities. Raised in suburban Cincinnati, he
left to pursue his fortune in the financial capital of the world, and
apparently did quite well for himself. But when the play opens, he has
abruptly returned to his childhood home, harboring a dark secret or two,
and is trying to drown his sorrows in buckets of Graeter's ice cream.
like, the best ice cream in the world," Jack gushes to his confused
sister, Lorna -- played by Katie Holmes, in her second Broadway gig --
who has been helping her aging mom take care of her ailing dad. Jack's
New York friends, with their gelato tastes, are too "superior" to
deserve such unfussy gastronomical bliss, he decides.
Food and drink figure prominently in Accounts,
which opened Thursday at the Music Box Theatre; cheese coneys and box
wine also serve to distinguish the salt-of-the-earth types that Jack
grew up with from folks like his estranged wife, Jenny, who dresses
entirely in black and has apparently never seen a linoleum floor. "No
one has ever seen her eat anything," Lorna notes, after Jenny has turned
up on her own to fill in a few holes in Jack's story.
But if this
light/dark comedy is too simplistic to tackle the questions it raises
-- not just about cultural and culinary differences, but about faith and
moral responsibility -- it is also Rebeck's most robustly entertaining
Broadway entry to date, with dialogue that crackles and purrs even when
the underlying points seem contrived or specious.
It helps that
director Jack O'Brien has such a finely tuned ear for ensemble comedy,
and that his ensemble here includes such consummate pros as Butz and
Jayne Houdyshell, who as Jack and Lorna's staunchly Catholic mom,
Barbara, contributes some of the most drily funny and moving moments.
Judy Greer's Jenny is convincingly severe, and Josh Hamilton plays Phil,
an old school friend who has long carried a torch for Lorna, with the
perfect low-key sweetness.
As for Holmes, she appears more at ease than she did in a 2008 revival of All My Sons,
and shows an affinity for goofy comedy; but her restless, shouting
Lorna is too much of an overgrown kid. That's certainly part of the
character, but you can't help but wonder what a slightly more mature,
nuanced actress might have brought to the role.
Fortunately, like other quandaries left unresolved or insufficiently explained in Dead Accounts, that doesn't detract from a generally polished and thoroughly diverting production.