Regional Reviews: New Jersey
The Most Deserving: Slight Comedy About Small Town Kansas Arts Council Grant Deliberations
The members of the board are thin, comic cardboard and, in some cases, unlikely characters, who are easy targets for author Catherine Trieschmann. Although Trieschmann is a Kansas resident, produced within the New York metropolitan area arts community, The Most Deserving plays as a smug putdown of bigoted/conservative middle Americans. Potentially, serious issues are swatted away with one liners. It is hardly acknowledged that the, played for laughs, loony bigotry of Whiteside is a serious issue for the board to consider. However, Trieschmann has a lively and off-kilter sense of humor which she employs to provide much laughter, which is fully amplified by director Laura Ekstrand and her fine company.
The remaining board members are Ted Atkinson (Scott McGowan), Jolene's British husband who publishes the local newspaper and is no longer aroused by Jolene but is hot to trot with Liz; Dwayne Dean (Jason Szamreta), an auto worker out of work after 30 odd years in the industry, who has painted a series of amateur paintings of American vice presidents and decides that he wants the arts grant; and the fussy, taste challenged Edie Kelch (Noreen Farley), recently widowed by her husband, an Arts Council and NRA donor..
The enthusiastic ensemble is nicely anchored by both Janet Sales (Jolene) and Julie Chen (Liz). Sales does get a chance to go over the top deliciously in a scene in which Jolene tries to restore Ted's lust for her. Scott McGowan overplays the unbridled Ted and his English accent to solid comic effect. The delightful Noreen Farley does the same as the fussy, addled Edie, whose recently deceased husband was a major contributor to the Arts council "and the NRA." (If you think that the latter stand alone observation is funny, this is likely a play for you.) Jason Szamreta is most funny when he tries to explain why he is one-sixteenth homosexual in order to strengthen his claim on the grant. André DeSandies manages the heavy task of making some of Trieschmann's least felicitous comic notions induce smiles.
Playwright Catherine Trieschmann has challenged neither herself, her actors, nor her audience in her over the top, bluntly satiric comedy. However, thanks to her comic touch, and the enthusiasm and talent of this repertory actors company, the unassuming The Most Deserving is providing Dreamcatcher audiences with an evening that is pleasantly amusing.
The Most Deserving continues performances (Evenings: Thursday - Saturday 8 pm/ Matinees: Sunday 2 pm) through March 1, 2015, at the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre at the Oakes Center, 120 Morris Avenue, Summit, New Jersey 07901; Box Office: 908-514-9654; 800-838-3006 (Brown Paper Tickets)/ on-line: www.dreamcatcherrep.org.
The Most Deserving by Catherine Trieschmann; directed by Laura Ekstrand