Picture a county arts council committee in a conservative Kansas town coming together in an attempt to reach a consensus on who should be awarded a $20,000 art grant. Sounds almost bucolic, but NO. In Catherine Trieschmann’s THE MOST DESERVING it is an all out cuckoo cultural clash, insanely hilarious as performed at Allens Lane under the direction of Nancy Kreider.
Under the guise of promoting the arts, five folks belying their own agendas attempt to pretend to acknowledge and follow the rules that go something like this: The recipient must be a local resident, possess artistic excellence, financial need, and it would also be nice if the person was an underrepresented American voice. The myriad means in which these stipulations are made supine by the voting members in order to suit their self interests amazes and amuses as the rules are stretched with broad strokes to fit personal and political purposes. How far will the voters go to achieve their greedy, ego laden narcissistic self-interests? From the boardroom to the bedroom, the barn and back – you betcha`!
A fine cadre of actors deliver rapier dialog, ripping one liners and crazy situational comedy in their colorful roles. Janet Wasser shines as Jolene Atkinson, the attractively fit, controlling head of the arts council who works staunchly to make sure her chosen candidate wins the prize. Her husband, Ted, portrayed with comic pluck by Scott R. Grumling is not so steadfast in his choices, and may be attracted to take sides with comely assistant community college art professor Liz Chang, compellingly played Kellie Cooper. Chang, for her own reasons, is backing outsider refuse artist Everett Whiteside, pricelessly expressed by Marc C. Johnson, who fits all of the grant criteria, but feels he has been framed by Uncle Sam and so does not cooperate well with establishment types. Lauri Jacobs is in fabulously funny form as widow Edie Kelch, keeper of the money cache, and the only source of sanity after the desperate, unemployed Dwayne Deany, uproariously done by Michael Tamin Yurcaba, ‘van Goghs’ all the way to get the $20,000 grab bag.
No ‘still lifes’ on Nancy Krieder’s simply lovely set, even between scene changes when lively music keeps the mounting momentum going. Everett Whitehead’s barn studio is especially visually engaging, and thanks to Rachel Cline, Randy Goode and Kim Pelle, well designed and delineated lighting and sound are spot on, helping to enhance tone as well as separate each scene setting.
Allen’s Lane offers a zany look at the politics of art, and the art of politics in this thoroughly enjoyable show, and cast and crew at are most deserving of every gilded bit of applause!
[Allen's Lane Theater, 601 West Allens Lane, Philadelphia, PA] March 9-18, 2018; allenslane.org