Jack (Stephen Barker Turner) is feeling hungry in the way that many Cincinnatians will recognize: He craves our favorite local culinary indulgences — Graeter’s Ice Cream, Skyline Chili (especially cheese coneys) and LaRosa’s Pizza. He has abandoned New York City for his hometown, running away from his crumbling marriage and a banking disaster (or is it an opportunity?) and seeking comfortable cures for his primal hunger.
Playwright Theresa Rebeck knows Cincinnati (she grew up here), so her world premiere play Dead Accounts takes dead aim by putting a very recognizable image our town onstage. There’s lots of knowing laughter from the audience watching this story unfold in a kitchen we all recognize (plates on the wall and linoleum on the floor) and behavior of adult children who come back home to recapture something they’ve lost — or to fulfill obligations.
Jack’s sister Lorna (Carly Street) is caught in the latter, unmarried and looking after their aging parents. We watch her interact with their slightly dazed mother Barbara (Susan Greenhill), and we hear lots about dad (never seen) who’s upstairs suffering from kidney stones and being denied painkillers.
The defining extremes of life in Dead Accounts are represented by Phil (Haynes Thigpen), an earnest boyhood friend who never left town and now works as an accountant for P&G, and Jenny (Victoria Mack), Jack’s disdainful, soon-to-be ex-wife, a haughty New Yorker who’s terrified of a garbage disposal and can’t really stand trees or fresh air. Of course, they’re caricatures, but they sharply delineate Rebeck’s portrayal of the divergence of American society.
The yin and yang are pulling Jack apart, and while Dead Accounts is fundamentally a comedy, it clearly sets forth troublesome issues at play in America in the 21st century: We teach kids to share and do good things, but when they are adults, we laugh at those who behave admirably and admire those who succeed by cutting corners or worse. The show clearly comes down on the side of Midwestern values, even while evoking a lot of friendly laughter at our expense.
You will know these people — your neighbors and people you grew up with if you’re from Cincinnati. You’ll feel comfortable with most of them and want good things to happen to them, although you’ll probably leave the theater wondering if that’s possible. But you’ll be smiling.
DEAD ACCOUNTS, presented by the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, continues through Feb. 11. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.