It’s rare to see a play that flows as easily as an evening in front of the television set, and while that may be a strange thing to say when reviewing a local theater production, it’s the first thing that comes to mind after seeing “Dead Accounts” at the Hampton Theatre Company this weekend. By the second night, this production was humming like a finely tuned refrigerator filled with leftover pizza, Graeter’s ice cream and Skyline Chili. I left hungry for comfort food but comforted by the simple beauty of this moral tale.
Playwright Theresa Rebeck knows a thing or two about pacing: as a television writer she has written for “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “NYPD Blue” and “LA Law.” Her writing is sharp and never plodding, her humor is laugh-out-loud funny, and her characters are far more multifaceted than you would expect from a play whose heart is tied to the simple clash of cultures between the midwest and New York.
But, after all, the playwright is from Cincinnati, and this script puts her solidly on home turf.
This isn’t HTC’s first go-around with Ms. Rebeck’s work. In 2009, they put up her “Mauritius,” the equally intriguing story of two heirs who find a valuable stamp from the Pacific island of Mauritius in their mother’s stamp collection.
“Dead Accounts” follows a man named Jack (John Carlin) as he returns home to Cincinnati from his job at a bank in New York, under mysterious circumstances and carrying pockets full of cash.
It turns out, he’s stolen $27 million from the bank accounts of people who’ve died or forgotten they had the accounts to begin with, and his soon-to-be-ex-wife Jenny (Rebecca Edana) is hot on his trail in pursuit of the cash.
The five-person cast of this play is pitch perfect. I was completely enamored with HTC newcomer Mary McGloin’s portrayal of Jack’s sister Lorna, a vivacious girl with a sharp mind, a big heart, and a penchant for telling the truth at high volume for everyone to hear. While Ms. McGloin lives in Brooklyn and is appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association, I hope to see her again here.
John Carlin made his HTC debut last winter as James in “Time Stands Still.” He plays Jack as a rip-roaring loudmouth in a rumpled Armani suit, who walks around with a bottle filled with prescription pills in his pocket and believes he will never get caught stealing because that sort of thing doesn’t happen in New York. He just nails this role.
HTC veteran actor and director Diana Marbury does a wonderful job as his mother, Barbara, whose Catholic faith is what really drives this play. She mutters and clucks and prays and scolds as her character shuffles around in a purple velour tracksuit waiting for her husband to pass another kidney stone, but she’s a smartie too. She knows a thing or two about what her children need, and she gives it to them, whether they like it or not.
Peter Connolly is a sweetheart as Jack and Lorna’s high school friend Phil, and his character becomes warmer and gentler as he courts Lorna throughout the course of the play. He’s a great counterpoint to Jack’s wife, Jenny, played by Rebecca Edana, who struts into the house in her high heels and her black dress, her nose held high and her hair pulled back tight, demanding answers (and money) from the man from Cincinnati whom she’s come to scorn.
Congratulations are in order to director Andrew Botsford for coaxing the best out of this fine cast.
While “Dead Accounts,” first staged in 2012 at New York’s Music Box Theatre, takes place after the economic meltdown of 2008, you wouldn’t know it was the 21st Century from the kitchen in Cincinnati where this entire play takes place. And that’s the point.
With a kitchen phone cord that stretches from one end of the stage to the next, cabinets filled with Corelle Ware, a crucifix over the kitchen door and a red plastic spaghetti strainer on a hook by the stove, this could easily have been the scene of a 1990s sitcom if it weren’t for the sad post-millennial outlook of its cast.
There’s one great special effect in this play, and I can’t quite reveal it to you, except to say that it revolves around a sycamore tree and redemption. I thought this play ended in church, but it must have been a trick of the light.
Kudos to set designer Peter-Tolin Baker, lighting designer Sebastian Paczynski, costume designer Teresa LeBrun and stage manager Chrissie DePierro for pulling it off.
“Dead Accounts” continues at the Quogue Community Hall at 125 Jessup Avenue Thursdays through Sundays through Jan. 31. Performances are at 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 and are available online here.