Watching Katie Holmes play a woman chafing against a stifling situation in Dead Accounts, just a block from the New York headquarters of the Church of Scientology, the symbolic parallels are irresistible. When the character played by Josh Hamilton finally overcomes his timidity and declares his love for her with a kiss, the moment signifies the escape of this frustrated Midwesterner to a more fulfilling life. The exhaustive tabloid chronicles of Holmes’ recent flight to independence provide an amusing subtext, something otherwise lacking in Theresa Rebeck’s superficial new comedy.
Directed with a nimble hand by Jack O’Brien, the Broadway production assembles a terrific five-person cast. Two-time Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz is in typically wired, Energizer-Bunny form, with Holmes ably playing foil. After appearing in a supporting part in the 2008 revival of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, the actress brings a lovely naturalness to her first starring Broadway role, along with frazzled warmth and judicious glimmers of a more brittle edge. Heretofore unlucky in love, and stuck at home with her aging parents, her character, Lorna, remains mostly reactive until the second act. But Holmes animates her with an appealingly fresh stage presence.
The play, however, suffers from the same shortcomings that often cramp the theater work of Rebeck, a veteran TV writer whose credits include NYPD Blue, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Smash, a series she created but was cut loose from by NBC after season one. Dead Accounts is all surface polish and minimal depth. It has lively dialogue, well-drawn characters and a smattering of smart observations about contemporary life. But it never acquires thematic coherence. The set-up is capable if a little unhurried, but the payoff is negligible, too often stuffing overworked wisdom into its characters’ mouths to make points upon which the writer fails to expand.
You can read the rest of the review over at HollywoodReporter.com.