Friends tell friends their stories.
That’s one of the many small gems that sparkle in the dialog between the young dreamer, Franco Wicks, and his jaded hippie boss, Arthur Przybyszewski, in “Superior Donuts” by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Tracy Letts.
The play kicks off another promising season at the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea. Directed by Guy Sanville and starring Randolph Mantooth as Arthur and Brian Marable as Franco, this production tackles big themes in intimate surroundings that leave no dramatic wiggle room. If the emotions aren’t real, they don’t work here. And they work really, really well.
This is one of those perfect plays with a simple plot and complex emotions.
All of the action takes place in the rundown donut shop that Arthur’s father opened just after WWII. The show opens as the donut shop is being vandalized. Although Arthur’s neighbor Max is incensed by the senseless violence, and the local cops want to help, Arthur seems to accept the damage and the insult as no more than his due. And when young Franco shows up later that day, insisting that Arthur hire him on the spot, Arthur can’t even muster the resolve to turn him away.
Long before we understand the source of his pain, it’s evident that Arthur’s effort to anesthetize a spiritual ache has made him numb to the simplest human joys. And while we celebrate the boldness of Franco’s youthful enthusiasm and confidence – we can’t help but worry that he will be crushed when denial can no longer keep desperation from beating down the door.
All we can do is hope that these two endearing characters will nudge each other into a better trajectory. And we watch for that old alchemy – the one in which strangers who exchange personal stories become friends – where the transformation leaves each the power to heal the other when they are most at risk.
This PRTC production of “Superior Donuts” enjoys a wonderful cast.
David Daoust is dynamite as Arthur’s Russian neighbor Max, and Michael Brian Ogden, as his nephew Kiril, wins us over in just a couple of short scenes and mumbled English phrases. Alex Leydenfrost invents “casual ruthless” for the character of Luther Flynn, and Ryan Carlson fills the bill as his sadistic side kick, Kevin Magee. Michelle Mountain, as Officer Randy Osteen, gives us a fresh take on the loveable Irish cop, and Lynch R. Travis, as her partner, Officer James Bailey, feels like the real deal, even when he’s outed as a true Trekkie. And Sandy Ryder, as the derelict wino who stops by for free donuts, manages to break our hearts with her sweetness, her scarred sanity, and her simple words of wisdom.
The set design by Bartley H. Bauer left us longing for the donut stores of our youth and the taste of a perfect fry cake fresh from the frier. More to the point, Bauer’s Superior Donut Shop strikes the right balance between nostalgia and apathy. Arthur isn’t there because of precious memories; he’s there because he lacks the will to do anything else.
“Superior Donuts” enjoys a 13-week engagement at the Purple Rose Theatre, running through Saturday, December 15, 2012. Regular performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. with Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 3 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Note that “Superior Donuts” contains adult language and violence.
Ticket reservations can be made by calling The Purple Rose Theatre Company Box Office at (734) 433-7673 or visiting the website.