Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Off-Broadway Review: The Most Deserving (Women's Project)

Jennifer Lin, Edie Kelch, and Veanne Cox. Photo: Carol Rosegg
The Most Deserving
By Catherine Trieschmann
Directed by Shelley Butler
The Women's Project Theatre

What's It All About?
The Arts Council of a small Kansas town considers candidates for the largest grant award it ever has received -- $20,000. But who is the most deserving? Is it the son of a local politician who can make or break the council's existence with his power over its budget? Is it council member Dwayne Dean (Adam LeFevre) whose series of vice-presidential portraits fails to stir passion even when he claims minority status as part homosexual to be eligible for the grant (he needs the money after being laid off from his auto sales job)? Or is is Everett Whiteside (Ray Anthony Thomas), an African-American with some social challenges who is about to be evicted from his home for back taxes, but who has a visionary eye when it comes to trash art? That's the question for the council, headed by officious Jolene Atkinson (Veanne Cox), her dominated husband, Ted (Daniel Pearce) who has lost interest in his marriage, rich widow, and sometimes drunk Edie Kelch (Kristin Griffith), who uses her late husband's donation of $10,000 to match the original grant as leverage, and its newest member, Liz Chung (Jennifer Lin), who advocates for Whiteside despite the councils initial lack of interest because his work moves her, especially an angel made out of "found objects." The fact that she wants to cap off her academic studies with a doctorate in art history by profiling him in her book has nothing to do with her support, she insists. Things get even more dicey when Ted and Liz begin an affair and everyone starts bargaining for votes on who will receive the grant.

What are the Highlights?
Catherine Trieschmann (crooked and How The World Began) is a playwright to watch. She is skilled at bringing true-to-life characters to the stage with witty dialogue in situations we can relate to while causing us to try to wipe the grin off of our faces. If you ever have dealt with an arts organization, a small town committee -- or any committee for that matter -- you will recognize one or more of these people depicted by a strong ensemble cast. Trieschmann nicely weaves the grant question and its politics with the personal life situations that give the term "deserving" a whole new meaning.

Sharp prop and set changes (designed by David M. Barber) are made with polish by cast and crew with guitar music (sound design by Leon Rothernberg) and keep the 95-minute, no intermission piece moving at a brisk pace. Costumes by Donald Sanders help define each character (and I especially loved the look of art professor Chang.)

What Are the Lowlights?
One scene needs editing as the pace slows and dialogue seems less sharp. Some actors were tripping up on their lines. Cox needs to bring down the yelling a notch. We get that Jolene is uptight and domineering without needing her to yell everything. In fact, Director Shelley Butler might have discovered more nuance for the character by asking for a less stringent tone.

More Information:
The Most Deserving runs through May 4 at NY City Center Stage II, 131 West 55th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm with matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 pm. Tickets: www.NYCityCenter.org; 212-581-1212.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Trieschmann was a recipient of Masterwork Productions'The Lights Are Bright on Broadway Award for How the World Began. The honor was awarded to individuals making a difference through faith in the Broadway community.
-- Language

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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