Dead Accounts - In Which We're All Basically Talking About Norbert

In what I can only describe as justice after leaving the Music Box Theater, all the whispers and murmurs weren't about that Katie girl and her post-divorce opine for relevance. Nope - it was like music to my ears when the gaggle of 60 and older ladies were openly saying how "HE was amazing" or "that guy was amazing."

And while I shared the same sentiment, I had one up on them. I knew that guy's name...it's Norbert Leo Butz. Norbert Mother Effing Leo Butz.

Point blank - he's a star. He's a star while walking down the street, he's a star while he sleeps and he is, undoubtedly, the star of Dead Accounts, which opened earlier this evening. While the rest of the production, creative and cast alike, trot along with the Cincinnati scenery and avoid interfering with the Norbert show, I'm so grateful we have him. He chews the scenery with a charismatic, nuanced and layered performance as Jack, a midwesterner-turned New Yorker who flees back home as his marriage and job troubles put him on the verge of a breakdown.

I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that his manic intensity and mannerisms call to mind his character in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, but his performance stands well enough on it's own to where I won't call bullshit. Because let's be honest; there is nothing that Norbert can't do. He goes on long-winded diatribes about ice cream, New York, his home town and everything in-between. As a member of the audience, you hang on every last word of what he is saying and even when his character veers towards the obnoxious or downright delusional, you're still on his side and want to hear him out at the least.

As if that wasn't enough, when the lights go down signaling the end of Act I, Norbert remains on the stage in-character. And I was still captivated by his portrayal as it took a minimal, subtle turn. It's quite jarring actually - with the house lights up, everyone in the theater came to a stop just to watch him...and clearly rethought that afternoon cocktail or bathroom break. Norbert Leo Boss is more like it.

To be fair, Dead Accounts is passable on several other merits. The set design, by David Rockwell, has an understated chic quality and perfectly calls to mind Cincinnati without being to literal. The use of a porch and backyard in the distance was a welcome sight and the final moments of the show use the set to masterful effect and further the subtle-charm of the story.

And speaking of the story, while occasionally a little "just so," Theresa Rebeck still knows what she's doing. She has a knack for bringing together a lot of disparate themes and characters into an intriguing, insightful, yet just "easy-enough-to-watch-without-being-confusing" piece. No, Dead Accounts is not as thought-provoking as Seminar (nor are the laughs as frequent), Rebeck's last Broadway outing and a personal favorite of mine, but it's a great effort and I dig the girl's style.

The rest of the performances are a mixed bag. Jayne Houdyshell's mother figure is lovely and I want her to be the grandmother in my dream theater family (the other one being Chita Rivera, obviously). Ironically, Katie Holmes is competent as Norma, Jack's sister trapped in the home and confines of her own family. One of her cathartic monologues in the show drew a much-deserved round of applause - who knew the girl had it in her? 

Judy Greer's long-awaiting entrance to the show, as Jenny the "I Will Cut a Bitch" wife, commands attention, but under-delivers on the promise. Other then a funny scene involving her Manhattan lawyer-type adapting to the midwest, her talents are wasted. Josh Hamilton is as harmless as a puppy, but he couldn't be more non-descript as a family friend pursing Norma. 

Regardless, it's all about the Norbert kicking ass and taking names, as he is one to do time and time again. And if you're leaving the theater recalling one thing from Dead Accounts, you can't do much better then citing one of Broadway's best talents. Even if you don't quite know his name next to that one girl all over the tabloids for being in a high-profile relationship.

Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich

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