Holmes holds her own, but Butz does the heavy lifting in sometimes funny, sometimes leaden 'Dead Accounts'
Director Jack O'Brien has put together one of the most-discussed ensembles of the season for Dead Accounts, Theresa Rebeck's new comedy that opened this week on Broadway.
Not just Norbert Leo Butz, who has racked up a pile of Tony and Drama Desk awards, but also stage veterans like Josh Hamilton and Jayne Houdyshell. And rounding out the cast are two women better known for their work on the silver and small screens: Judy Greer and Katie Holmes.
A lot of the talk centered around that last name in the list, as Holmes is much better known for her high-profile split from Tom Cruise than any of her recent acting endeavors, least of all her 2008 Broadway debut in Arthur Miller's My Three Sons, which received generally tepid reviews. Could she hold her own against such formidable talent?
Holmes does just fine, I'm happy to report. She even has a couple of moments when she's pretty darn good; a hilarious tirade about the immorality of the banking industry, late in the second act, stands out. You only wish that Rebeck had written her a more interesting part, one that would require her to stretch a bit.
But Rebeck, who wrote last season's well-regarded Seminar, didn't provide anyone with much to do: funny ladies Houdyshell and Greer are mostly deprived of their punch lines, and the usually soulful Hamilton is required to do little more than produce a hang-dog expression. Butz, with the only character of any substance, has to keep all the plates spinning on his own.
And he keeps them from crashing to the ground much longer than you'd think possible, holding our attention until well into the second act when his character's rough edges are sanded away for an overly sentimental ending.
Butz plays Jack, a charmingly roguish young man who returns to his family in Cincinnati, after living large in the New York world of high finance, with shocking news for his sister Lorna (Holmes) and mother Barbara (Houdyshell, who was so excellent in The Language Archive). It's supposed to be a surprise for the audience as well, but having seen pockets of his Armani suit stuffed with wads of cash mostly gives it away.
Jack binges of pints of the local favorite ice cream with his sister and chili dogs with his best bud Phil (Hamilton) until the unexpected arrival of his soon-to-be ex-wife Jenny (Greer) from New York. Besides gleefully bearing the bad news about Jack's financial improprieties, this uptight daddy's girl turns her nose up at the family's dishes and scoffs at the maple tree in their backyard. Rebeck obviously wants to make a point about class and regional differences, but it's a little unconvincing. (Really, what plausible character, however urbane, hates trees?) And her other musings about childhood or mortality or the existence of God are equally unconvincing.
Butz (so good as a lecherous uncle in How I Learned to Drive) is a bundle of nervous energy, making Jack appealing one moment, appalling the next. When Jack maneuvers Phil into a headlock, refusing to let him go until he asks out the lovelorn Lorna, you kind of wish Phil would haul off and slug him. But then Jack retreats, flashing a goofy smile, and you're on his side again.
Dead Accounts is playing at the Music Box, 239 West 45th St. Tickets are $62 to $129 and are available at 212-239-6200 or www.telecharge.com.