The Prize Is Not Worth the Taking

New York Times

The point (In case you care to wait around for it) of the new musical at the Public, “More Than You Deserve,” is that the My Lai massacre came about because practically everyone involved was impotent unless he had a gun or a bayonet in hand. The notion, not entirely an original one, is transformed into song and dance by having a G.I. use his bayonet as penis on an up‐ended representative of Vietnamese womanhood while the stage becomes a whirl of wheelchairs and a maddened pianist (I liked the pianist) helps bang out some cruelly amplified rock. I know I liked the pianist because I found myself watching him rather than the grossly obvious thematic illustration on stage.

In addition, there are ballads about impotence (“Where Did It Go and How Did I Lose It?”), girlish effusions over the pleasures of a gang‐bang (“Mother always told me there was safety in numbers, but mother never told me how much fun it was!”), a good bit of swift unzipping and blood, blood, blood (a G.I. pays for his whores with cutoff ears).

There may have been a faint glimmer in librettist Michael Weller's eye when he first conceived of placing this melange of “M*A*S*H,” “Strangelove,” Joseph Heller and Rodgers‐Hammerstein against sweetly twinkling backgrounds: undulating bridges beneath a starlit sky, painted cupcake tents and hangars that look like shellgame peas. Designer Miguel Romero has done his part of the job well.

But even with the presence of the lanky Fred Gwynne, rolling his sourball eyes in song, and the always interesting Terry Kiser, seriously contemplating the possibility that he may truly be a creep, to hint at comedy every now and then, this is an amateur's, anything‐goes attack on the problem. The gags are labored, the fantasy is unfollowable, the body ‐ mikes are so blatant that the lyrics can't be heard. In its own way the occasion is approximately as irresponsible as the various forms of conduct it means to satirize. Black humor, after all, must be black humor.

Let us take comfort from the fact that Mr. Weller wrote “Moonchildren” and can always go straight again.