A touch of irony is the most notable twist in a show that's otherwise free of nuance.
Music Box Theatre, New York
At least Theresa Rebeck’s new play has a touch of irony going for it, said David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter. Here is Katie Holmes, that recent refugee from Scientology and marriage to Tom Cruise, playing a woman who’s “chafing against a stifling situation” on a Broadway stage located just a block from the church’s New York headquarters. But that amusing subtext, alas, might be the most notable twist in a show that’s otherwise free of nuance. Rebeck’s story about the Midwestern homecoming of a charismatic Wall Streeter is “all surface polish and minimal depth.” Despite a brilliant performance from Norbert Leo Butz as the banking whiz and a respectable one from Holmes as his dowdy sister, “the payoff is negligible.”
“For at least its first 15 minutes, Dead Accounts does command your attention,” said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. That’s largely because Butz turns the first scene into “a sustained aria of nervous energy.” Entering his Cincinnati childhood home “wearing an Armani suit and a jangle of urban vibes,” prodigal Jack proves to be “a devourer—of food, of attention, of oxygen, and, you might infer from his hyperkinetic pace, of pharmaceuticals.” Even so, Butz manages to establish “an appealingly natural family rapport” with Holmes. It’s just too bad that his magnetic performance is squandered on such a forgettable play.
A profound lack of credibility undercuts the story, said Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune. In Act 2, when we learn that Jack has made nefarious use of the assets of dead customers, we have to overlook that no banker would have access to such accounts. Rebeck tries to use Jack’s misdeeds to contrast New York and Midwestern values, and we know this because “it sometimes feels as if every line starts with ‘Here in the Midwest’ or ‘People in New York.’” At times, Dead Accounts does touch on “the very worthwhile notion that two Americas have grown up alongside each other, one in the thrall of religion, the other of money.” Unfortunately, neither world feels real.