If you’re looking for 90 minutes of awkward east coast, midwest rivalry, look no further. Dead Accounts is a forgettable introduction to the trite dichotomy between east coast greed and midwest naiveté.
A household idea executed a bit haphazardly, Theresa Rebeck attempts the story of every midwest dreamers escape to the Big Apple, their struggle to find an identity, and the journey back home after they discover that they are just “too nice” for those east coast piranhas.
The difference between Rebeck’s play and all other tales of the midwest dreamer is that the main character Jack’s (Steve O’Connell) journey involves $27 million stolen in dead accounts that Jack is convinced he’s entitled to for his years of serving as the poor naïve Midwestern.
Coupled with this dirty money is an obscene amount of unbearably symbolic Garter’s ice cream and chili dogs from Skyline—both set in place to ensure that the audience is aware that this play is set in Cincinnati, Ohio—the midest of the Midwest.
Jack travels back to Ohio on a surprise, somewhat forced visit home only to cause an immense amount of strife for everyone he comes in contact with. The first to enjoy this suspiciously high-strung visit is his sister Lorna, played by Emily Tate.
Lorna’s shock and disbelief to see Jack after seven years is the first of many mysteries to unfold in this slowly underdeveloped story of greed, religion and love.
The uneasiness warranted with each laugh is what makes it so difficult to feel the empathy one should expect to have for each character, and maintain throughout the duration of a play with such a deep premise.
Whether it is overacting or erratic writing from Rebeck, the initial introduction to Jack is intensely overwhelming—overly passionate and hectic for someone who just arrived after a long day of spontaneous traveling.
As the plot thickens, we still aren’t sure if Jack is on drugs, or if O’Connell is REALLY trying to get into character.
While it is entirely too apparent that Jack no longer cares for New York—a place he’d dreamt of in his youth while childhood friend Phil, played by Bradford Lund, remained content with his Midwest simplicities—it is not quite clear why from his long soliloquies and offbeat tangents.
Is it because of his sticky divorce with wife estranged Jenny (Elizabeth Antonucci)— old money, and the epitome of east coast snobbery, or is it because he is running away from his new New York self? Has Jack become what he now loathes—the dichotomy between east coast greed and midwest naiveté?
As he struggles to tell his dying father (who we never see) that he is home with millions of dollars in dirty money and a sticky ongoing divorce, the audience begins to see Jack’s family unravel with him.
His need to provide them with smothering “comfort foods” in bulk, alcohol, and mysterious drugs that are a suspect by nature to feel better about himself are not fooling his audience, and they don’t seem to fool him either.
Jack seems to be a setup for the symbol of American greed and the battle with consciousness, a complex idea that could have been developed into a much deeper character. Instead, what the audience really sees is a neurotic criminal who has selfishly brought his naively religious mother Barbara (Millie Hurley), dying father, soul-searching sister, and lovable friend into a crime too extreme to get out of.
While his mother holds onto the smallest bit of faith she still has in God and church to bring her family back to salvation, Jack’s sister seems to be the only realistic, yet annoyingly shrill character in the family—alongside Phil, the epitome of the midwest sweetheart—her randomly placed new love interest who is far too timid for her wondering mind.
As the play comes to a close, Lorna recites the only words that become a saving grace for the empathy that the audience should have had at the start of the play.
Money and religion are just the dumb things people use to fill the voids in their hearts—eventually we are all gonna die.
You can catch Dead Accounts from October 3rd– November 2nd at 7:30 pm at Chicago’s Den Theatrelocated at 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave.