Music Box Theatre
239 West 45th St. between Broadway & Eighth Aves.
Through September 2, $67 - $147
Ohio-born playwright Theresa Rebeck follows up her Broadway comedy Seminar and television series Smash with the slight, sitcomy Dead Accounts. The dysfunctional family tale is set in a kitchen in a house in Cincinnati, where prodigal son Jack (Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz) has suddenly and unexpectedly arrived from New York City, bringing with him numerous pints of Graeter’s ice cream. The charged-up Jack tells his younger sister, the cute Lorna (Katie Holmes), all about how he convinced the guy at the ice-cream shop to let him in, even though it was closed, and sell him a bunch of pints by paying him a thousand dollars. Lorna, who has sacrificed her social life in order to take care of her mother, Barbara (Jayne Houdyshell), and ailing, unseen father, is shocked by Jack’s disregard for the law (yeah, we didn’t get that one either), but she’s about to find out that Jack has done a lot worse and is on the run from both his job and his wife, Jenny (Judy Greer), whom he jokes about having killed. Meanwhile, Jack tries to reconnect to his hometown by hanging out with his childhood friend Phil (Josh Hamilton), who has had a longtime crush on Lorna, and devouring cheese Coneys. (The play features a whole lot of eating and drinking.) As various truths slowly emerge about Jack, things threaten to get even crazier in this small-town madhouse. Butz gives a bravura performance as the manic-depressive Jack, who seems to live in a different reality from everyone else, but the play is weighed down by Rebeck’s inability to find its center; she sets the story in a kitchen, and she has essentially thrown in everything but the kitchen sink as she takes on religion, politics, Wall Street, environmentalism, love, aging, loneliness, drug addiction, and other topics in a swift two hours (with intermission). Holmes (All My Sons) is good as the shy Lorna, delivering a rousing soliloquy on the state of the nation that earns a well-deserved round of applause, and two-time Tony nominee Houdyshell (Follies, Well) is a joy to watch as always, but Greer, in her Broadway debut, speaks too softly, and Hamilton (The Coast of Utopia) isn’t given much to do with Phil, who seems to have stepped out of a middling sitcom. And continuing the play’s eating theme, the proceedings are dragged down by Rebeck repeatedly biting the hand that feeds her, tearing into big-city New York in favor of small-town Ohio in a mean-spirited way that falls outside the central story and seems to come with a gigantic chip on her shoulder. Fluidly directed by three-time Tony winner Jack O’Brien (The Coast of Utopia, Hairspray), Dead Accounts does have its share of tasty little morsels, especially in the person of Norbert Leo Butz, but it veers off in too many directions as it reaches its curious climax.