Sotheby’s and Christie’s may have cornered the real-world market for bitchiness and backstabbing in the name of art, but in The Most Deserving, Catherine Trieschmann’s newest play, produced by Women’s Project Theater, the fictional champion lies in a small Kansas town, where the B.S. that flies among the members of the local arts council is more hilarious than anything those high-falutin’ auction houses ever crossed gavels over.
The title refers to the dilemma facing the council, which must award a $20,000 grant to a local artist of some merit. Shelley Butler smartly directs this snappy Dallas-meets-Topeka story, with outsider art, not oil, as the impetus for a power-grabbing melée that builds as unstoppably as a Midwestern tornado. The excellent cast is led by a terrific female trio: Veanne Cox as the prudish, relentlessly self-serving council president; Kristin Griffith, devastating as its straight-shooting suburban patron in pink chiffon; and Jennifer Lim as an ambitious college lecturer with a plan for getting the hell out of Dodge.
Ultimately, it’s the professor’s flawed defense of a self-taught genius that sends a more serious salvo into this heartland culture war. In The Most Deserving, art finally trumps egos, but as befits such an infamously inflated market, the ride is priceless.