Norbert Leo Butz provides most of the show in Theresa Rebeck‘s Dead Accounts, with the two-time Tony winner as Jack, a manic, manipulative ex-bank worker who rationalizes that he’s entitled to other people’s things.
Returning to his parents’ house in Cincinnati after a serious misdeed, Butz’s Jack is flamboyantly entertaining as he jumps between phrases and ideas while gorging on ice cream, serving up pizza, and flinging around wads of bills.
But the play feels undernourished, and the theme–don’t take what’s not yours; just plant a tree and wait for it to grow–is rather banal, even if Rebeck (Mauritius, Seminar) takes some interesting turns with it.
Katie Holmes plays Jack’s sister Lorna, who’s still living with the folks and seems resigned to her frustrated fate.
(But at least unlike her brother, she’s a giver, not a taker.
Don’t underestimate that tree Lorna planted 25 years ago!
Do you see where this is going?)
Holmes’ performance seems pretty surfacey, but she shines in a bitter Act Two speech about the culpability of greedy banks, who arguably did a more legalized version of what Jack has pulled off.
Alas, her character then goes back to righteously dull yelps of “You stole!”–utterances that contribute to an unexciting overabundance of everyday bickering.
Adding a welcome wry touch is Jayne Houdyshell as ma, who’s praying harder than ever, what with her husband sick, her son up to no good, and her ex-daughter-in-law (a snooty Judy Greer) dissing her taste in silverware.
Occasional splashes of charm can’t offset the annoyance level of most of these characters, and as eye-catching as Butz’s star turn is, there were times I wished mama just got ahold of the money and ran.