Monday, January 24, 2011

Superior Donuts, Artist Repertory Theatre (Grade A)

by Tracy Letts
Director Allen Nause
Max Tarasov  .....  Michael Mendelson
Officer Randy Osteen  .....  Linda Alper
Officer James Bailey  .....  Victor Mack
Lady Boyle  .....  Vana O'Brien
Arthur Przybyszewski  .....  Bill Geisslinger
Franco Wicks  .....  Vin Shambry
Liuther Flynn  .....  Pierre Brulatour
Kevin Magee  .....  Paul Glazier
Kiril Ivakin  .....  Matthew D Pavik

plot summary:  a depressed ex-60's war resister from Chicago still owns the family business, a Donut Shop in Uptown, on the north side of town--a working class neighborhood. He tells his story as the play goes on--he wonders if he was a coward--as his father has said he was, as well as honestly being against the war.  His father had died--days befroe Kent State and while he was in Canada, so he had been unable to attend his funeral and had never been able to reconcile with him.  His marriage had ended in divorce and he had proved to be a bad fater, not staying in touch with his daughter.  Next door to the donut shop is a recent immigrant with a video rental store--he wants to buy the Donut Shop and expand his business. The shop is not for sale. A new employee is hired--a literate and optimistic young black man--who has dreams and plans and tries to talk our depressed ex-radical into truing the Donut Shop into a hip coffee shop, place with poetry readings and healthy food alternatives.  Then the young black man's past come back to haunt him in the form of a major gambling debt -- and each character has to react.

sez says: this story could have been told about anyone, of any class, in any time.  It is a well enough known, maybe even a humdrum story, about the power of friendship, the never ending possibility of renewal and redemption and finding hope where hope has been lost. It is not the story that makes this a great play. It is great because of the setting--the place and its people make it special.  It illuminates a world often overlooked. It  understands that world with an affection for the past and with an understanding of its power and place in our country's history.  And this production does justice to this sensitive and moving bit of drama.  It is reminiscent of August Wilson's Jitney --but in this case featuring an ethically mixed cast of characters.

mjc says:  engaging and enjoyable yet stirring up some reflections on racism and politics

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