The opening scene in Theresa Rebeck’s 2012 play, Dead Accounts, reminds me, oddly enough, of the start of the Broadway show, 42nd Street. I was in attendance at the final preview of that show back in New York in 1980, and after the overture, the sound of the chorus beating out a time step could be heard, then the curtain raised up about three feet and the audience could see the tapping feet in a chorus line that stretched across the width of the proscenium. As the curtain flew up and the number continued, the audience stood and cheered, and, bang-zoom, the show rocketed on to amazing heights. Dead Accounts is not a musical, yet it kicks off in the same kind of thrilling high gear.
Late at night in the neat, modest kitchen of a Cincinnati home, Jack (Doug Mattingly) has just come home from New York, abandoning his career in finance and is going rhapsodic over the carton of ice cream he is consuming and urging his sister, Lorna (Selena Price) to have some. Some isn’t the issue; he has brought home dozens of cartons in all the flavors available. Lorna is sleepily astonished and then alarmed when she finds out that her brother pounded on the glass door of a local supermarket after hours and roused the guy who was cleaning up. The custodian waved him off. So how did he get all this ice cream? He paid the man a thousand dollars! Hmmm…could his erratic behavior be connected to the real issue of his angst, the pending divorce action engaged by his socialite wife, Jenny (Casey O’Keefe)?
As portrayed by this cast in this dark comedy production under the excellent direction of Branda Lock, all the characters are unique and appealing, each in their own way. Doug Mattingly as Jack drives the action with Bugs Bunny-like energy and appeal. As the trapped-in-ennui Lorna, Selena Price has wonderful, sloe-eyed charm. Mother Barbara, as portrayed by Geraldine D. Fuentes, is the exemplar of honest Midwest virtue and patience. Tall, handsome Karthik Srinivasan projects wistful warmth as he reveals his burgeoning affection for Lorna. And sleek, svelte and blonde, Casey O’Keefe’s Jenny is the avatar of unapproachable, disdainful old money…until she isn’t.
There are so many things I like about this show. I loved the hilarious scenes where Lorna talks on the phone, while her mother talks over her at the same time. I was amazed by how much real food and drink are consumed in the show. The clean, detailed set by Tristan Griffin, with lights by Bruce Starrett and props by the director, represents a realistic, unpretentious kitchen. It is easily the best set I have seen at Little Fish. Costumes by MarLee Candell support character, place and action. Sound Design by Doug Mattingly is excellent, and features a terrific incidental-music playlist. Aileen Kamoshita manages the stage with confident aplomb.
In researching for this column, I was astonished to learn that the play was regarded as a failure on Broadway, with twenty-seven previews and only forty-four performances, closing long before its projected sixteen-week run. Clearly, Little Fish Theatre has bested Broadway with this production.
Dead Accounts continues its run through June 9 at Little Fish Theatre, San Pedro’s Arts District at 777 S. Centre Street. See it while you can.