Superior Donuts – Remount

By Tracy Lettmary-arrchie theatre

Produced by Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.

At the Royal George Cabaret Theatre, Chicago

Terrific non-Equity production of Lett’s ode to Chicago awaits at the Royal George

The folks at Mary-Arrchie sure know how to produce in-your-face Chicago Style theatre. Their hit production of Tracy Letts’ Superior Donuts is another gem from them. It was so popular that they moved it to the Royal George Cabaret Theatre. What makes this production sizzle is the honest performance by Richard Cotovsky as the Polish-American donut show proprietor. He is just the character that Tracy Letts finds so often in his writing.

mary-arrchie theatre

Letts’ Superior Donuts demonstrates Letts’ keen ability to write dialogue capturing the unique voice of each of his rich characters. After 25 years living in Chicago, Tracy Letts claims he is a true Chicagoan. Superior Donuts is his ode to the melting pot ethnic neighbor of Chicago’s Uptown. In a city where ethnic identity is a badge of honor, Superior Donuts is Arthur Prybyszewski’s Uptown rundown donut shop that is struggling to keep afloat. We learn that Arthur, now a 59 year old Grateful Dead look alike, is the proprietor bent on holding on to the shop that was been in the family for 60 years. Arthur clings to the status quo. His neighbor, Max Tarasov (Paige Smith) wants to buy the donut shop to expand his next door DVD electronics store. Max is a first generation Russian immigrant. Arthur is second generation Polish. The two are friends.

rich cotovsky

Officer Hailey (Bradford Stevens) and his partner, Randy (Millie Hurley) frequent the donut shop as does Lady Boyle (Joanna Maclay)—a senior bag-lady type. When Arthur interviews Franco Wicks (Preston Tate,Jr.), a super-smart teen for a store clerk position, Arthur and Franco quickly bond as they exchange smart and clever witticisms. Franco wants to change the drab donut shop into a beatnik type coffee house. Arthur just wants to maintain things as they have always been. Franco’s youthful optimism toward the future gets Arthur to examine his past. Rich Cotovsky delivers several telling monologues about his past where we find out about his draft dodging and attachment to the family business. The spark between Cotovsky’s Arthur and Preston Tate, Jr.’s France offeredmany funny and poignant moments. Arthur eventually reads Franco’s hand written novel while Franco aids Arthur with flirting tips so Arthur can date Randy, the female cop.

mary-arrchie theatre

We learn that the brilliant Franco has a gambling habit wherein he complied a $22,000 debt to gangster Luther Flynn (Karl Potthoff). When Franco gets ruffed up and hospitalized by Luther and Kevin Magee (Christopher Borek), Arthur decides that he has been a coward long enough. His action against Luther results in a personal fist fight that was gritty and realistic.

Letts’ characters painfully adapting to the changing world of Uptown Chicago results in a comic drama that is an honest portrait of contemporary urban life. Ultimately, Superior Donuts works mainly due to the fully developed Arthur and the empathetic Franco characters. Max, the Russian, is the comic relief character filled with sharp barbs. The stinging dialogue filled with dark humor establishes Letts as a playwright adept at realistic and naturalistic story telling. Superior Donuts is a funny and nostalgic look at Chicago’s storefront retailers as they struggle to hold on and resist change. Chicagoans will love this play. Preston Tate, Jr’s performance demonstrates his acting skills. This cast also demonstrates the rich stable of non-Equity actors who grace the stages of Chicago storefront theatres. This Superior Donuts tastes good and goes down smoothly. I kied the Mary-Arrchie production better than the original Steppenwolf Theatre production.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL, call 773-704-6000, tickets $50, $10 discount for students/seniors, Wednesdays thru Saturdays at 8pm, matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission, through December 31, 2012