BWW Review: SUPERIOR DONUTS at Olathe Civic Theatre
Olathe Civic Theatre's current comedy/drama "Superior Donuts", by award-winning playwright Tracy Letts, and directed by Diane Bulan is a tasty, sentiment glazed, box of satisfaction. Producing, for the audience, more smiles than rattled nerves this production is sufficiently sprinkled with enough interesting characters to cater to most any appetite. Equal parts smart jokes and social commentary this play is just the right recipe for anyone looking for theatrical comfort food.
Arthur Przybyszewski, a ponytailed middle aged ex-radical, is the proprietor of Superior Donuts, located in Uptown Chicago, a neighborhood which is emerging from harder economic times. Vandals have smashed the front window and tagged the establishment with spray paint on the walls as the play begins. Two beat cops arrive to investigate and are somewhat puzzled by Arthur's lack of concern about the violation. They have come to the shop after being called by storefront "Russian" neighbor Max Tarasov, who is outraged by what is happening in the neighborhood. Arthur, who has inherited the shop from his Polish immigrant father, is an amiable shadow of a man who seems to be fading away like the names of the bands on his rock T-shirts.
Responding to a help wanted sign by the front door enters Franko Wicks, a brash young black man eager for employment. Franco pushes right past Arthurs doubts about hiring him, takes the job, and immediately begins to hound his boss to makeover the place and Arthur as well. Arthur and Franko awkwardly banter and tease each other, alternately tossing out one liners about yoga classes, healthier menu options, haircuts and wardrobe, and poetry night in rapid side-splitting fashion.
As the story evolves, it is revealed that Franko has accumulated gambling debts (which is why he was anxious to earn some money working at Superior) and the men he owes intend to collect...immediately. Arthur, too, is concealing the fact that he has lost touch with his 19-year-old daughter and harbors embarrassment from having dodged the draft. While a certain wariness exists between the two, their developing interpersonal dynamics lead to somewhat of an understated surrogate-son/father relationship, bringing Arthur out of his shell and Franko back from the cliff's edge as the two find their lives changing in unexpected ways.
In Olathe's production, Bill Pelletier plays Arthur Przybyszewski convincingly with a generous helping of "lack of ambition" as if the pot he smokes helps him imagine he's part of the band as his Grateful Dead t-shirt shows. Pelletier provides the right notes of disappointment and longing as he inhabits a character who has practically no fight left in him. Evan Lovelace brings Franco Wicks to vibrant life, careening on to the stage with both youthful charm and impeccable comic timing. Lovelace is a dynamo who plays to the ideals of youth with charismatic authenticity. Together the two deliver the honesty and subdued warmth that brings them comfortable rapport with each other and the audience.
Completing the cast line-up are Addison Parker as Russian Appliance Dealer Max Tarasov (equal parts pushy and combative), Dennis Jackson as the beat cop attending to the scene, Ellen DeShon as Officer Randy Osteen who takes a liking to Arthur, Carol Leighton as smart-crazy alcoholic Lady Boyle, Michael Juncker and Dave Fullerton as Luther Flynn and Kevin Magee the loan shark thugs, and Dan Heinz as surprise visitor Kiril Ivankin who, without speaking but a few words of English, reveals one of the more special moments of the show.
This Olathe production includes the talents of DK Evenson (Stage Manager), Meghann Deveroux (Asst Stage Manager/Director), Michael Bunn (Sound Designer), Chuck Cline (Projections Designer), Cynthia Hyer (Fight Choreographer), Alex Leondedis (Sound Technician/Donut Boy!) Camille Lerch (Lighting Designer), Eric Palmquist (Scenic/Properties Designer), Quinn North (Dramaturg), and Darcy Russel (Costume Desinger).
Superior Donuts runs through April 22, 2018 at the Olathe Civic Theatre, at 500 E. Loula. For tickets and information call 913-782-2990 or online at olathetheatre.org
Photos courtesy of Olathe Civic Theatre