Review: Dead Accounts

dead accounts

I’m something of a Teresa Rebeck fan. I’ve long enjoyed her sparkling, cutting dialogue – she gets to the heart of important issues with a wicked, satirical sense of humor. She’s softened her satirical knives for her latest, Dead Accounts, turning in a more straightforward comedy, albeit on serious themes, and with a handful of sharp jabs.

This seems to have befuddled the New York critical establishment, who either expect something more provocative from her, or just plain don’t get her at all. From my own point of view, Rebeck is currently on an artistic incline, each new work better than the last. And yes, that means that I like Dead Accounts more than her much-lauded Seminar (although I liked that well enough).

In the new play, prodigal son Jack (Norbert Leo Butz) returns to his Cincinnati family home after working at a big bank in New York. The play is thematically focused on the contrast between a New York mindset and a Midwestern one, while the plot hinges on the mystery of what happened to Jack in New York, and where did he get all this money that he’s throwing around.

For my money, Dead Accounts a great big success. The plot is complex but coherent, the tone just right to keep us intellectually on point, without descending into obvious tragedy or melodrama, or the too-caustic approach of Rebeck’s least-successful plays.

Jack is a big juicy Omaha steak of a part, and Midwestern-born Butz chews it thoroughly, as is his wont, to terrific effect. Jack O’Brien has directed with his usual razor-sharp attention to detail. The ex-Mrs. Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, acquits herself very well as Jack’s stressed-out sister Lorna, and Jane Houdyshell is, as always, a delight as the dotty but deeply Catholic matriarch Barbara.

But in the end, this is Rebeck’s achievement, and it’s a considerable one. Like I said, I’m a Rebeck fan, and Dead Accounts has everything I love about her work. Recommended.

For tickets, click here.

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