SUPERIOR DONUTSby Tracy Letts
Director/Costumes: Bruce Coleman
Set Design: David Walsh
Lighting Design: Lisa Miller
Fight Choreographer: Micah Figueroa
Officer Randy Osteen: Brandi Andrade
Kiril Ivakin: Patrick Douglass
Max Tarasov: Rick Espaillat
Luther Flynn: Bill Jenkins
Franco Wicks: Chris Piper
Arthur Przybzysewski: Van Quattro
Kevin Magee: Daylon Walton
Officer James Bailey: Darius Warren
Lady Boyle: Carolyn Wickwire
Reviewed Performance: 3/25/2012
Reviewed by Mark-Brian Sonna, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I can say the same for Tracy Letts' delicious, soul nurturing play Superior Donuts given a "superior" mounting by Theatre Too.
Superior Donuts takes place, as might be expected by the title, in a donut shop. This is not a top notch donut shop but one that has coasted to mediocrity over the years in a Chicago neighborhood that has become run down.
We meet the proprietor Arthur shortly after we discover his shop was vandalized, and we are introduced to some of the neighborhood characters. This initial set up prepares us to meet what is in effect a man who is coasting through life, living day by day, and who has lost all aspirations.
Shortly thereafter we meet Franco, a crackerjack young guy with big dreams who desperately needs a job. Soon we have what could be a young prot?g? working and wishing to transform Superior Donuts into a snazzy place. The lovely twist in all of this is that Arthur has no desires to make his establishment better no matter how hard the kid tries. Eventually a few improvements are made, but nothing on a grand scale.
The play's plot is of secondary importance. I was able to figure out the plot twist and turns far in advance of them happening. It didn't matter because this isn't what the play is about. It's about human relationships and the reality of life as it takes its tolls on dreams.
One would think this play is a downer but it isn't. It's a wonderful comedy about the need for humans to connect, the importance of friendship, and caring.
At one point, in one of his monologues, Arthur discusses his views of marriage and he mentions that what makes marriage so good is the comfort of knowing someone is there. Not love, but comfort. It takes you back for a second because one traditionally thinks that love would be the most important thing in a marriage. But as he further elaborates, he makes a convincing case. This play is full of wonderful moments like this that make you stop and think about the world we live in.
The language is overall very simple and straight forward in this play but there is beauty behind every word said. Tracy Letts writes his characters' language with basic and utilitarian vocabulary but somehow he creates poetry.
It helps that the cast is all top notch. Be it Carolyn Wickwire's convincing portrayal of a homeless lady, Brandi Andrade's flawless accent execution of a Minnesota cop of Irish descent, to even Patrick Douglass' intimidating almost non-verbal role, each member delivers. Daylon Walton fits the role of the Italian thug perfectly as does Bill Jenkins' slimy Mafioso. Rick Espaillat, as the Russian neighbor, is completely identifiable as is Darius Warren's portrayal of a cop who thinks he's better and more effective then he actually is.
It is Chris Piper as the young Franco and Van Quattro as the owner Arthur that truly carry the bulk of the show and they do it flawlessly. By the end of the play you understand these two men perfectly. Never once is there a false moment. It comes across as if they aren't even acting. Beautiful.
Lisa Miller's lighting is marvelous in this play. The theatre is small with a low ceiling but she is able to illuminate it as if you are in a real third-rate donut shop. No, there isn't the use of fluorescent lighting but the effect is there. There are moments when the lighting diminishes and Arthur stops to speak to the audience and he is very well lit regardless of where he is on stage.
David Walsh creates a completely believable set. Anyone walking into the theatre will feel like they are walking into that donut shop. Even when the place gets a slight make-over it still feels authentic.
Bruce Coleman's costuming is spot on. Daylon Walton's costumes serves as an example of how perfect the costuming is. Mr. Walton is a tall man, but not as big a hulk as what his costuming makes him seen. By having him wear a couple of layers, and then on top a slightly oversized leather jacket, he immediately comes across as a large thug not to be messed with. Yet his costuming isn't stereotypical, it seems very authentic. Every costume is this well thought out.
Coleman was also in charge of directing the play and all I can say is that he did it so well that never once did I see the intrusion of the director's hand in the staging of it. The play seemed to happen naturally before our eyes because his staging was so realistic and didn't call attention to it.
There is one extensive fight sequence that is near the climax of the play. The overall staging of the fight scene by Micah Figueroa is good. The problem with it is that because it is a long sequence, the execution of every punch, knee to the stomach and groin has to be believable. In a small space this is difficult to execute and, unfortunately, some of his set ups for punches are a little too obvious. It also doesn't help that the characters are mostly silent in the fight scene with very few gasps or groans.
By remaining silent through most of it we end up focusing too much on the fight choreography and not the effect of the fight itself. Keep in mind that this scene happens at the climax of the play and it is the only moment I was pulled out of the reality in the play.
There is no reason why audiences shouldn't flock to Theatre Too and taste for themselves this delicious play. By the end I left emotionally satisfied...and craving donuts.
Theatre Too downstairs at Theatre Three
2800 Routh Street, Suite 168, Dallas, TX 75201
Runs through April 15th
Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:30pm
Tickets start at $25-$30
For tickets or information, go to www.theatre3dallas.com or call 214-871-3300.