The Most Deserving

Theater, Drama
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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The Most Deserving. New York City Center Stage II (see Off Broadway). By Catherine Trieschmann. Directed by Shelley Butler. With Veanne Cox, Adam LeFevre, Jennifer Lim, Daniel Pearce and Ray Anthony Thomas. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.

The Most Deserving: In brief

Catherine Trieschmann (Crooked, How the World Began) returns to Women's Project Theater with a play about a small-town Kansas arts council that must decide how to disburse the largest grant in its history. Shelley Butler directs a cast that includes Veanne Cox and Adam LeFevre.

The Most Deserving: Theater review by David Cote

Mapping influences on a playwright can be a mug’s game, potentially insulting the writer under scrutiny and the ones hauled in as evidence. Who am I to say that the insightful Catherine Trieschmann (How the World Began) has taken a cue from her brittler peers Theresa Rebeck and Bruce Norris for her arts-funding satire, The Most Deserving? Her new piece is much broader than her earlier work, and its characters, while sympathetically drawn, are closer to the cardboard targets you find in some of those other writers’ plays.

Maybe the subject brings out the glib farceur in Trieschmann. At issue is a $20,000 grant to be disbursed by a small-town Kansas council. Stressed-out chairperson Jolene (Veanne Cox) wants to give the award to the son of a local politician to shore up government support. She butts heads with urban-transplant art professor Liz (Jennifer Lim), champion of “outsider artist” Everett (Ray Anthony Thomas), who makes religious art out of garbage.

Shelley Butler’s too-breezy direction tends to flatten these already caricatured figures, when it ought to deepen them—vanity, prejudices and all. Failing that, this seriocomic dispatch from the heartland’s culture wars hangs poorly both inside and outside.—Theater review by David Cote

THE BOTTOM LINE Art and money get mixed up in this minor comedy.

Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote

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