Thursday, May 1, 2014

Review - The Most Deserving

I very happily accepted an offer for a free ticket to last night's performance of The Most Deserving, by Catherine Trieschmann - it's produced by the Women's Project at City Center.  I love to support new plays, as you all know, especially new plays by women.  After struggling my way through the monsoon, I arrived at Stage II with a bit of time to spare.  As is my habit, I went to my seat and did a little atmosphere-soaking.

I was a little nervous when, at about five minutes before curtain (and the real curtain time, not the printed-on-my-ticket-but-they-don't-abide-by-it curtain time), there was practically no one in the theater.  Suddenly, at close to curtain, everyone arrived at once.  The line was crazy, the volunteer usher was losing her mind, the patrons were being rude - it was chaos.  I don't know why house management didn't send someone in to help that poor usher, who was having a hard enough time remembering the seat numbers.  It turned out that most of the house belonged to one group of women.  A group of sorta rude women, if you ask me.  They wouldn't sit down, they wouldn't let people past; the lady sitting next to me was on her phone for most of the show.  The lady behind me kept kicking the back of my seat.  Maybe they all came from dinner or something and couldn't really calm down fast enough.  I had to take a deep breath to get back to my happy new play place.  It was great to see a house filled with maybe 90 percent women, though.

photo credit: Carol Rosegg
The Most Deserving is about a small arts council in Kansas who are about to vote on a new large-grant recipient.  There are plot twists and turns that I didn't see coming, and characters set up and lose alliances all over the place, as they try to maneuver people and select a winner.  It's a funny look at the midwest, committee heirarchy, the often convoluted process of selecting an award recipient - the play may reference the most deserving in the title, but the plot points out that 'deserving' often doesn't enter into the equation.

I had a smile on my face throughout most of the play; I found the dialogue mostly very smart (even from the characters who weren't) and the acting was all spot-on.  Veanne Cox was her usual wonderfully funny self, plus I was very moved by her choices in the final scene.  One of the actors looked disconcertingly like an old boyfriend, so that was off-putting at times (my neuroses are not his fault, of course).  If the play was mainly humorous but not really very deep or satirical enough to really be an indictment on arts councils or selection processes, oh well.  Maybe it didn't want to be deep.  It was an entertaining piece, with one scene that did make me burst out with extra-loud laughter (much to the chagrin of my seat neighbor; perhaps I disturbed her thought process while she was texting).  I'm giggling now thinking of that dialogue.  I definitely would want to see another play by this author - I like her voice.

I do have one quibble, though, and there's probably nothing to be done.  In fact, they may have tried to address it and couldn't.  One of the characters in the play is in a wheelchair.  The actor was terrific, no doubt about that, and I don't begrudge him work, but at the end of the show, the lights went off.  When they came back up for the curtain call, the wheelchair was empty, and the actor walked on stage with everyone else to take his bows.  And it bothered me.  Backstory: I serve on several committees that focus on issues of diversity in the arts, including disability, and it was bothersome to me that they didn't find an actor who was actually in a wheelchair to play this role.  You can't tell me there aren't any in the NYC acting pool, I can't believe it.  And when an actor comes out on stage as if to say, nope, not disabled, just acting - thanks!, I get perturbed.  I can't help it.  Again, it was not the actor's fault, he was great, and the theater company may have tried to address this and couldn't, but I see it too frequently to think it's always impossible or an accident.  I just had to put it out in the universe that someone noticed.

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