On February 2, 2017 a new American sitcom premiered on CBS. However, before that, an American playwright by the name of Tracy Letts had his new play premiere on Broadway in 2009 by the same name. That play was Superior Donuts. Fast forward to this past weekend where Lyric Arts made the brave decision to produce this play...and it so paid off.
The play focuses on the relationship between Arthur Przybyszewski, a former 1960s radical who owns a rundown donut shop in Uptown, Chicago, and Franco, his energetic but troubled young African American assistant who wants to update Arthur's shop. While Franco helps to modernize the shop, Arthur is insistent of keeping it the way it is and spending the day reminiscing about his Polish immigrant father. These two begin forming an unbelievable friendship as it gets pushed to the test when previous mistakes from the past come to the surface.
First of all, let's go back to something I mentioned earlier. Lyric Arts made a brave decision. This is a time for Entertainment when a lot of audiences and companies are pushing for diversity and this show features two African-American characters, a polish immigrants son, and two immigrants from Russia as well. Shows like this are important, especially when we live in a time when the current President of the United States calls other countries "shithole countries." I applaud Lyric Arts for making this decision.
The cast tells this story so well with each actor giving their given moment. Peter Aitchison keeps the audience chuckling as Max Tarasov, the next door neighbor who owns an electronics store. Martha Wigmore even catches some funny lines here and there as the homeless Lady Boyle. She has a wonderful moment towards the end of the show that had the entire audience in awe and silence. You could hear a pin drop.
Our two leads are both phenomenal. They include Jeffery Goodson as Arthur and Malick Ceesay as Franco. Actors who want to learn how to act in silence should go see this show. They all can learn just from watching Goodson. He knows how to act his way through complete silence while also still getting every single emotion, thought and memory through to the audience. He was brilliant and certainly an actor I'd like to keep track of for shows around the Twin Cities.
Malick Ceesay is another actor that I'd love to see perform again. He never skips a beat on keeping the energy high for a large majority of the show. The contrast of his character from the first to the second act showcases his acting chops very well. Ceesay is one who I hope continues to audition and see cast at Lyric Arts.
The actual show itself is touching. It's been described as a "...soulful play, full of humor and humanity" by Variety and I would agree with that to a certain amount. While I absolutely loved the story of cross-racial and cross-generational friends, there was one thing I didn't quite like. Lett's is an amazing writer when it comes to dialogue. The dialogue in his other plays is phenomenal however Superior Donuts has a few problems in terms of the climax of the production. I try not to spoil exact plot details when I review productions however one of the biggest conflicts of the show seemed to come out of nowhere and then wasn't mentioned again until close to the end. It wasn't the conflict I had problem with, it was just the way it was introduced.
There are some other significant highlights from this show that I want to say and they include:
- The scenic design, by Gabe Gomez, is wonderful and nostalgic of your favorite bakery that you would go to as a kid.
- Matt McNabb once again directs another fantastic production for Lyric Arts. This production also marks McNabb's 15th production. You can learn more from one of Lyric Art's blog post which is apart of their "Director's Take" series here.
- The donuts used in the show were provided by Hans' Bakery, a very amazing bakery located not far from the theatre in Anoka. I love to see theatre's join forces with other businesses. It show's a lovely supportive relationship and I loved it.
Superior Donuts opened on Friday, January 12 and runs through Sunday, January 28. This regional premiere is intended for mature audiences and discounted ticket prices through GoldStar, click here.
If Goldstar is sold out, you can buy tickets on the Lyric Arts website and those can be bought here.