Dead Accounts

  • Our critic's rating:
    November 1, 2012

    (Review by Tulis McCall)

    Theresa Rebeck has a taste for the obscure subjects; stamp collecting; the essence of good writing; and now dead accounts. A dead account is a pot of money sitting in a bank, the owner of which has moved on from this planet. No one has followed up to remove this money, so it is sitting all on its own, waiting for someone to pay it attention.

    Norbert Leo Butz (Jack) is the man for the job. Butz, always engaging, is now the new and improved version of himself. He has lost weight and buffed up, and appears to be on a strict diet of puppy uppers. Jack has returned to his family home in Cincinnati, filled with ice cream from the local constabulary and stories of what makes Cincinnati not New York. His sister Lorna (Katie Holmes) is the stay at home child who has passed up life and the local guy who loves her, Phil (Josh Hamilton) in favor of - well, who knows. Hovering over all of these children is Barbara (the underutilized Jane Houdyshell) who is busy praying for the souls of everyone she sees and tending to her husband upstairs who is passing a kidney stone.

    In case you are trying to connect the dots here – I wouldn’t bother. These folks are related by blood and neighborhood and not much else. We spend most of the first act sorting this out and listing to Lorna be suspicious of Jack’s return. It is not until a few minutes before the close of the first act that Jack’s wife Jenny (Judy Greer) appears with the news that Jack has messed up big time.

    The second act gives us the details of Jack’s indiscretions – along with a painful scene in which Greer is on the phone complaining about Cincinnati with cheesy comments about linoleum and trees (oh so funny!). She accidentally turns on the disposal and completely freaks out because she doesn’t know what it is. This is Rebeck’s attempt to tell us that we are ALL living cocoons, no matter how you slice it. New York is no worldlier than Cinnatti. The scene pretty much fails due to Greer’s lack of stage savvy, but it was a long shot from the get go.

    And here is the center of the center of this dilemma – what is Rebeck talking about here: The comparison of two cultures? Theft? Morality? Family? I don’t know. It is a flimsy smorgasbord.

    Jack O’Brien’s direction is clumsy – the kitchen scenes resemble musical chair numbers for no reason. And then there is Ms. Holmes, the elephant in the room, who is adequate, and who is taking up a perfectly good space onstage that a very good actor could use. Like Ms. Greer, Holmes has little stage experience.

    When will we ask our celebrities and film/TV performers – i.e. Katie Holmes and Judy Greer - to take a number and get in line? I can count dozens of women who would have at least brought spark and depth to this play. It probably would not have changed the outcome, but it would have been a whole lot easier to watch.

    "Seems to float out of memory even as you’re watching it."
    Ben Brantley for New York Times

    "The stillborn comedy ... is so stupefyingly unfocused that it plays like a draft, not a finished work."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

    "With its cardboard characters and implausible developments, 'Dead Accounts' feels like a rough first draft."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "Lazy and predictable comedy."
    Erik Haagensen for Back Stage

    "A thin and annoyingly glib comedy."
    Robert Feldberg for The Record

    "Not so much a comedy as a joke."
    Roma Torre for NY1

    "An entertaining Broadway play in every respect. ... Not only is 'Dead Accounts' Theresa Rebeck’s best play, it’s the best new comedy to hit the New York theater scene so far this year."
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

    "All surface polish and minimal depth."
    David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter

    "The material is too thin even to support its modest ideas."
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Back Stage - The Record - Newsroom Jersey - The Hollywood Reporter - Variety