Highly Recommended ****Even a person casually familiar with American Theatre will be skeptical of a play billed as “a comedy about the American family.” It’s hard to think of any staple of the American stage that would qualify. When American playwrights write about the American family, it is almost always about the family’s tragedy or its disintegration, and, as expected, “Dead Accounts” is comic rather than comedic. The themes of divorce, sin, crime, guilt, reparation, redemption, greed, suffering, death, regionalism, God, and money are far too numerous and heavy for a comedic plot or even tone. Nor is the play comedic in a classical sense; that is, by the play’s end, it is not all clear that the fortunes of the protagonists, especially Jack, have gone up, and the certainty of death in the family is a lot closer than either a marriage or a birth.
As the play begins, Lorna (Emily Tate) and her mother, Barbara (Millie Hurley), are in the midst of a family crisis, trying to come to terms with the fact that the family patriarch is dying a very painful death offstage when Lorna’s brother, Jack (Steve O’Connell), returns to their Ohio family home from out East without his snobby-wife: Jenny (Elizabeth Antonucci). Instead, he has twenty-four million dollars which, at the very least, does not belong to him. (Although who exactly the money does belong to is one of the central conceits of this play: Jack notes that the original owners “escaped the [ownership of] money. I just don’t know how they did it.”)
When Lorna discovers that Jack and Jenny are in the final processes of a divorce, she calls her sister-in-law to express her condolences over the marriage’s failure. Soon, Jenny shows up, and contemptuous of the Midwest and its values—it’s clear she has never been to her husband’s home before—tells Jack that her father can protect him from Jail if he returns with her and gives him at least half of the money. Meanwhile, Jack’s mother urges him to make restitution and achieve redemption by giving the money to the poor. By the play’s end, the only thing Jack he has managed to do is set in motion a romantic friendship between his old high-school chum, Phil (Bradford R. Lund), and his sister, Lorna, who leave in the final act for the pictures: hardly enough to raise the play even to the level of tragicomedy.
That said, the dialogue makes the script extremely funny. It alternates between the straightforward, rather than the heavy-handed or lyric (indeed it falls down the few times it does try to do lyric), and the hilarious while traversing the play’s myopic themes. In the beginning, when Lorna’s mother asks her why she no longer attends Mass, Lorna retorts, “I believe in God, not churches, Mom. I am not unique in holding this position,” and we hear such Midwestern straight-talk by all the characters delivered with perfect, comic timing throughout the play. At one point Frank says, the East Coast think Midwesterners are stupid because “we don’t realize that you can steal, get caught, not go to jail, and still keep the money. It has nothing to with the fact that we believe in God and use Mayonnaise in our cooking,” and towards the play’s end he bemoans that as children we are taught forbearance and sharing, but as adults are expected to treat such values with contempt.
This play was not terribly successful when it was first produced on Broadway, but Jason Gerace clearly understood that the two most important facets in a revival of Theresa Rebeck’s play would be delivery and character which are this production’s strengths. Costume (Raquel Adorno) and Make-up (Dorothea Walstrom) should also be credited here with helping the actors create highly credible Midwesterners. I realize the themes are numerous, that all these people different ideas, and that the play can never settle on one argument. One of its final conclusions is nearly ridiculous, but that is ultimately the genius of this play. Though not a comedy in any really sense of the word, it forces us, through hilarity, to confront our values both in national, civic, and family life, and shows us that they are always variegated, often in tension with each other, and sometimes mutually exclusive.
Set up Productions is producing “Dead Accounts” at The Den Theatre located at 1333 N. Milwaukee Avenue. It runs through November 2, 2014 with performances as follows:
|Sun, Oct 19:||3:00pm|
|Thu, Oct 23:||7:30pm|
|Fri, Oct 24:||7:30pm|
|Sat, Oct 25:||7:30pm|
|Sun, Oct 26:||3:00pm|
|Thu, Oct 30:||7:30pm|
|Fri, Oct 31:||7:30pm|
|Sat, Nov 1:||7:30pm|
|Sun, Nov 2:||3:00pm|
Price: $20-$30 with senior and student discounts.
Show Type: Comedy
Box Office: 312-316-8255
Running Time: 2hrs; one intermission
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