Crash-test Crullers: Superior Donuts @ Theatre Too

Holey Rollers! Flex your opposable dunkin’ digits, and prime your taste buds. When’s the last time you attended the theatre where the show made you so hungry for coffee and doughnuts you could hijack a Roach Coach on the street at intermission? Theatre Too, the downstairs space lozenge at Theatre Three, presents Tracy Letts’ 2008 curmudgeonly comedy, Superior Donuts, a love poem to all things Chicago, through April 15.  You owe it to yourself to inhale its fresh-baked aroma. Yes, THAT Tracy Letts, the one that wrote a Tony and Pulitzer-winning play about a big happy family in Oklahoma that gives “Dad, Poor Dad” entirely new meaning. Same black humor, same incisive insight deep into the human soul, same dramatic structure that spins along at roller-coaster pace, same spare, poetic wordplay. It’s a smaller package than the Pulitzer behemoth, and it makes you ache to your toes for fresh coffee and doughnuts. Yum.

Van Quattro and Christopher Piper in Superior Donuts

Bruce Coleman, who has surely forgotten more about comic timing than most of us will ever know, directs a canny cast to bring out all the sugar n’ spice the play offers with a hardcore adult beverage chaser. Lanky Van Quattro carries the bulk of the play’s action (or inaction) as downtrodden Arthur, the donut shop proprietor with a tattered heart and a U-Haul-load of secrets. Playing the role with easy Clint Eastwood-like deadpan, he manages to make Arthur a sympathetic character while keeping the character’s heart and soul far from the light of day. He shows, rather than tells, Arthur’s nature in reluctant, terse drips and drabs. In charges Franco, a youthful idealistic hustler, gambler and great novel writer, bursting with ideas about modernization (like adding a radio to the donut shop), trailing a cascade of broken promises and bad juju behind him. Christopher Piper gets to deliver most of the play’s humorous lines as Franco and maximizes their effect with earnest delivery that sends the audience into wave upon gale of laughter, earns their full affection for the character. Soon enough, his cloudy past catches up to him; passive, numb Arthur finds himself taking a stand for his friend and getting engaged in life again, fisticuffs and all. Rick Espaillat gives a compelling, lively turn as Arthur’s neighbor and gauche Russian entrepreneur Max assisted by mostly silent Lurch-like Patrick Douglass. Bill Jenkins’ small-time Chicago crime lord Luther furthers the festering plot with smarmy grit as Daylon Walton’s enforcer reminds everyone he can put a real hurt on, if required. Brandi Andrade and Darius Warren offer fresh perspective into the ordinary lives of neighborhood cops (Darius’ cop’s Brotha-play with Piper’s Franco is as sharply written as any stage dialogue you’ll witness); Brandi’s lady cop also provides Arthur with a quaint, viable love interest. Last, but not least, Carolyn Wickwire plays Lady, a street person of unknown past and indeterminate sanity, whose uncanny life wisdom reveals the   playwright’s voice, when all the fussin’ is done and fresh doughnuts abound. Life is a cornucopia of mixed delight; the journey, not the arrival, matters.

Set design by David Walsh, lighting by Lisa Miller, costumes by Bruce R. Coleman and fight choreography (OUCH!) by Micah Figueroa.

Superior Donuts didn’t find universal critical favor when it hit Broadway; it didn’t take stage at the grand epic level of 2007’s August: Osage County. Please give it your consideration. Not all good theatre is epicurean ganache; sometimes it’s just superior donuts.

Through April 15, 2012 214.871.3300

Photos by Jeffrey Schmidt

NY Times Review:

One thought on “Crash-test Crullers: Superior Donuts @ Theatre Too

  1. Pingback: An August, Osage State of Mind: Letts Ride at WaterTower « Alexandra Bonifield

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