BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
Tabloid-reading neighbors who could care less about the theater lately have been asking me, “So, how’s Katie Holmes in that new Broadway show?”
Short answer: Katie Holmes is perfectly lovely, thanks.
Let’s talk now about the show, “Dead Accounts,” which opened on Thursday at the Music Box.
Not so short answer: Theresa Rebeck’s new comedy about morality and money is a warm, often very amusing study in Midwestern roots versus East Coast perceptions. Stylishly directed by Jack O’Brien with top-shelf actors led by a charismatic Norbert Leo Butz, “Dead Accounts” is an entertaining Broadway play in every respect.
A nice kitchen in suburban Cincinnati is where the story transpires over two days when 30-something Jack (Butz) unexpectedly returns to his family home from New York. His sister Lorna (Holmes) and their mother (Jayne Houdyshell, endearing as a Catholic matriarch) are glad to see the high-flying Jack, but he seems more than usually excitable, even for him.
Late in the first act, when Jack’s estranged wife Jenny (a sharp Judy Greer) arrives, they learn that Jack has embezzled $27 million from his bank – or maybe not. “The truth is complicated,” says Jack.
Clashing Midwestern and East Coast values figure into Rebeck’s breezy look at modern-day morality, which lightly reckons God, family ties, personal growth and death into its bright conversations.
Having witnessed a dozen of Rebeck’s other plays, good (“Mauritius,” “The Understudy”) bad (“The Water’s Edge”) and indifferent (“The Seminar”), it seems to me that “Dead Accounts” represents her best work to date. If any of those plays have appealed to you, then by all means see “Dead Accounts.”
You certainly will find an excellent production, which is sharply staged by O’Brien. Designer David Rockwell provides a beautiful setting that appears homey in spite of its acute perspectives and a striking frame in blues and purples. David Weiner’s lighting design punctuates the scenes with sizzling a-vista transitions and a glowing surprise at the conclusion. Mark Bennett’s sound design mixes mellow music with a prickling sense of electricity.