Wednesday, November 28, 2012


So I had the great seeming privilege of seeing what has to be the hot ticket of the current coming season, the recently ex-Mrs. Tom Cruise in Dead Accounts which I thought was going to be about dead accountants.  As it was, it was about a jammed night in the theater, because apparently there is great curiosity about seeing her in the pretty flesh, or many people know that Norbert Leo Butz, her co-star, or as should be correctly heralded, the one who carries any show he's in, so whoever else is in it doesn't matter, even if she was married to Tom Cruise.  The play is a less than a slight comedy with a premise that turns out to be ingenious but is revealed too late, set in a wonderful kitchen with a roof that recedes and has slats in it and lights up in brilliant ways in-between scenes.  But none of it is substantial enough to make up for the price of the ticket, even when, as in my case, it was free, as I was invited by Rex Reed.  He was, from all appearances, slightly more infuriated than I by the events, or lack of them, onstage.  
   But we were both enchanted by Norbert Leo Butz who tears through and up anything he's in, a marvel of charm and multilayered gifts, though we were both concerned about his health as he eats about six pints of ice cream in the first scene and even if it's yogurt he has to be in trouble unless he goes offstage and throws up or it's Activia in which case he'd have the runs.  He also swills several cans of Coke it looks like (I had a very good seat since I was with Rex) in which case he would have to be up all night from the caffeine.
   All of this compulsive behavior happens immediately, so one is so caught up in the frenzy that the presence of the sweet(I have to assume she is) Katie Holmes seems very much beside the point, as it probably was to Tom Cruise.  She is slender and solicitous, as her voice is, so one strains for a note of specialness, that doesn't really make itself evident until just before the curtain call, when she lets down her hair in a Rapunzelian moment, as if to tell us what there is/was of special femininity that got her into such an elevated(in terms of US magazine) position, Hollywoodmarriagewise.  The play itself is even more fragile than she is, and it is not until the second young woman, as the recent ex-wife of Norbert appears, with an even reedier voice that Katie sort of holds her own.
    One has to wonder, in this era of multi-million dollar losses, global tragedies, and the recent devastation in this once great city, why anyone would put up several million, which even the flimsiest of productions costs on Broadway, for what could be at best a modest success.  There is a wisp of wit in what is revealed, at too long last, as Norbert's folly, a clever crime for which we do not know the results or ramifications by the final curtain, and remains a puzzle as theatergoers who have never seen each other before are brought into a kind of camaraderie as they leave, asking what were until that moment complete strangers, "Did you understand the ending?"
    Jack O'Brien, usually a very clever director, maybe understood.  Theresa Rebeck who wrote the thing, is, according to my host, a great favorite of critics.  So perhaps one of them will be moved to explain it.  Meanwhile, the woman who played Norbert's mother, Jayne Houdyshell, was valiant, and Josh Hamilton, a touching Cincinnati pal of everyone in that terrific kitchen, got to kiss Katie, which seemed a source of great relief to the audience, all of whom were probably wondering the same thing.  Huh?