Bros on Broadway: Our Good Midwestern Bro Says Goodbye to Dead Accounts
Did our philosophical Midwestern bro dig Katie Holmes and Norbert Leo Butz in this (now deceased) play?
In our last edition of Bros on Broadway, our series of uncensored Broadway show reviews penned by dudes with little to no experience with live theater, our man Ray took on the bro-iest play ever, David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. For our latest installment, TheaterMania mourns the loss of Theresa Rebeck's dearly departed Ohio family dramedy by sending new bro and "flyover state" transplant Matt to weigh in on Dead Accounts.
In this, our second (accidental) bro-bituary, our most enlightened bro to date offers up deep thoughts on the death of the show, which shuttered January 6, 2013.
Occupation: Trial attorney
Bro Cred: Plays in a Circle Rules Football League. Taught basketball coach Gino Auriema how to play darts.
Fun Fact: Matt has had jobs cleaning semi trucks, telemarketing, selling vacuum cleaners, selling corn, selling watermelons, and selling old Japanese baseball jerseys in [expletive deleted] Korea.
Show Reviewed: Dead Accounts
I'm from Indiana. Which makes me a Hoosier. I just learned that "Hoosier" is a derogatory term in some circles. Nobody told me. So when I got this assignment—to be the bro from the Midwest to review the play about the Midwest--I was still a little bitter from that "Hoosier" revelation, and figured I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to see. I went in ready to let all y'all have it. And yeah--"y'all" is a way better form of that pronoun than "you." Deal with it.
The Midwest is not just strip-malls and Wal-Marts filled with fat, bored, God-loving Republicans. And I am happy to report that this Theresa Rebeck, who wrote Dead Accounts, heavy-handed as she was in proving it (SKYLINE CHILI IS IN CINCINNATI – WE GOT IT MAMMA), didn't rely on such obvious caricatures. It seems to me one of the main reasons she wrote the play was to give those caricatures some subtlety and depth. I appreciated that. We see a lot of silly Midwestern moms clinging to God on TV, but they don't usually end up being right, like the mom in this play. A definite + on that count.
(But don't get me wrong—the mom is fat and Katie Holmes is dressed like a 5th grader in 1998 throughout the thing.)
Now let's give stuff [stuff = the cast] grades, because there's about to be some winners and some losers up in this piece.
Norbert Leo Butz (Jack, the main character, who runs home after committing a crime): Jack is the main character. He comes back from New York and is a grating, self-centered d**k. And a lost little boy. All fine. But this Butz guy was excellent. Really funny. If someone said, "Hey, Norbert Butz is in something, want to see it?" I would ask a couple more questions. But then I'd probably say yes. Grade: A+
Katie Holmes (Lorna, Jack's sister who hasn't left Ohio): Uhhhhhh. STOP YELLING, KATIE!!! Grade: C-
Jayne Houdyshell (Barbara, Jack and Lorna's mom): Right on. I thought this part was written the best. That was a legit Midwestern mom, y'all, and I thought that woman f'in nailed it. Grade: A.
Judy Greer (Jenny, Jack's ex-wife): "Never promise crazy a baby!" Arrested Development, right?! Judy Greer is hilarious! But she didn't do anything worth anything in this as far as I could tell. Blah. Grade: B.
Josh Hamilton (Jack's childhood friend): I completely forgot he was in the play until the editor wrote to me and said I left out Josh Hamilton. So, Grade? B-? I don't know.
Rebeck used these characters to address some real deal issues. Why do people leave the Midwest? Why do young people with nothing holding them back stay? What's waiting for us when we do leave? Love! Money! Fear! Sex! Family! Perfectly interesting questions and issues.
And of course, there's also God.
Jack's solidly religious Midwestern upbringing (probably the most prevalent kind) was his guide, we assume, through the moral minefield he found himself in when he left for New York. He proves he will do anything he can to get money when he steals a lot of it [from dead accounts]. At one point, Katie Holmes' character, Lorna, says that money and God are the same thing—something we strive for, but never quite reach. She's wrong. The play makes that clear. We see Barbara (the fat mom), who is fully on board with God, demand that Jack give his sketchily-procured money back; Lorna, who believes in some higher power but we're not sure what, eventually concludes he should give it back; and Jack, the atheist…well, he's the one with the dirty money in his pocket in the first place. The accumulation of wealth can't be a guiding principle--a little bit of duh, right?
We come to learn that it's not money that is the same as Barbara's God, it's love. (!) Bet you didn't see that one coming did you?! None of this is new ground, of course, but it's played out for us in this…play. Characters who ignore love aren't nice and probably aren't happy. The ones who had it want it again. The ones who are finding it are happy and, honestly, cute as buttons. (What? They are!)
I'll say this: Rebeck did a really good job writing a script that is funny enough to not feel preachy, and created characters subtle enough to deal with the issues she tries to tackle without seeming overtly trite. But at the end of the day, her play just is. Trite.
It really doesn't help that the end is ridiculous.
Most of the time, I laughed at the play because it was supposed to be funny. The last line though—I turned to my girlfriend (who was looking f***ing righteous, btw, love you, babe!) and we laughed. A lot. At them, not with ‘em. We talked about it afterward and tried to figure out what the hell it was about. Basically, after all the drugs, and whoring himself out to some big bank, and the failed marriage to a woman who may have never really loved him, Jack wishes he could start over. Um. Duh. Rod Stewart has a frickin' song about wishing he knew what he knows now when he was younger. And that guy just can't be smart.
Update: I just YouTubed Rod Stewart interviews - dude's not smart.
Bottom line, would I recommend you go out and pay at least $70 for a ticket to see this? Nope.