Review: Superior Donuts (Metropolis Performing Arts Centre)

| July 19, 2012
Superior Donuts by Tracy Letts - Mary-Arrchie Theatre postcard        
       
Superior Donuts 

Written by Tracy Letts  
Directed by Matt Miller 
Metropolis Performing Arts Centre (map)
thru July 26  |  tickets: $25   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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Mary-Arrchie’s gem of a play comes to Arlington Heights for a short run

     

Richard Cotovsky and Preston Tate Jr - Superior Donuts, Mary-Arrchie Theatre

    
Metropolis Performing Arts Centre i/a/w Mary-Arrchie Theatre presents
    
Superior Donuts

Review by J.H. Palmer

The cast and crew of the Mary-Arrchie Theatre’s production of Superior Donuts (read our review of the Chicago production here) have come to the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights for a short run. The Arts Centre is highlighting Superior Donuts as its selection for the “Best of Chicago” series that highlights exceptional plays that were staged in Chicago.

Arlington Heights puts this very Chicago story in a different light; where the Mary-Arrchie theater didn’t have to take their audience very far to transport them to the look and feel of Uptown, in pristine Arlington Heights, in a much larger theater space, it becomes not just a neighborhood story, but a story of the other, of the city, of everything that Arlington Heights is not. Having spent five years as an Uptown resident myself, three of them near the Wilson El stop, the recorded sounds of the El tracks and the run down look of the set felt familiar despite the tidy streets and well-maintained shops and restaurants that I traveled before taking my seat. The work of the production staff is evident in everything from the set design to the props to the costuming: nothing about the set looks slapdash, and nothing looks out of place. It is the very essence of the corner of Wilson and Broadway, where the more things change the more they stay the same.

The storyline of Superior Donuts is twofold: there is the main action onstage – the relationship that develops between the owner of Superior Donuts, Arthur Przybyszewski (Richard Cotovsky) and his new hire Franco Wicks (Preston Tate, Jr.) and there are the intermittent monologues of Arthur. He represents Old Chicago, and reveals his life story in quiet moments when the stage goes dark and he is spot lit. In those soliloquies the audience learns who Arthur really is, and grows to understand his motives. Franco talks his way into a job at the donut shop, and at first appears to be a go-getter with endless energy and youthful optimism; as the arc of the storyline moves forward and his true motives are revealed towards the end of Act I, the story becomes more textured.

The casting of this piece works extremely well; Cotovsky plays Arthur fully, avoiding pitfalls that could present themselves in this character. In lesser hands Arthur could have become a caricature – the old coot whose life has stagnated and refuses to move forward, holding out against progress and railing against the tide of time. The same is true for Preston Tate, Jr., who plays Franco Wicks with nuanced movement and delivery – his body language tells us as much as the words he speaks.

One of the things I really appreciate about this piece is that the actors actually look like people you might see in a rundown donut shop: Lady Boyle (Susan Monts-Bologna) is the embodiment of a hundred destitute people living in Uptown; Randy (Millie Hurley) is completely believable as the female cop who grew up in a house full of brothers, all of them cops; and Kevin (Dereck Garner) oozes the sinister air that surrounds the neighborhood.

Tracy Letts’ writing is at the core of Superior Donuts success; without the strong characters, genuine dialogue, and a storyline that is at once ordinary and remarkable, this play wouldn’t have legs. There are moments that are so uniquely Chicago – as when Arthur and Luther (John Gray) tell each other what neighborhoods they grew up in (Arthur in Jefferson Park, Luther in Bridgeport), that I wonder if an Arlington Heights audience can fully appreciate what that says about the characters, but maybe that’s just me being an insular Chicagoan.

This beautiful piece is only running until Thursday, July 26; if you didn’t get a chance to see it in Chicago, or if you live near Arlington Heights and don’t get the chance to go into the city to see productions in small theaters, this is your big chance. Don’t miss it.

  
Rating: ★★★½
  
   

Superior Donuts continues through July 26th at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell, Arlington Heights (map), with performances Mondays-Thursdays at 7:30pm.  Tickets are $25, and are available by phone (847-577-2121) or online through Tickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at MetropolisArts.com(Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes, includes an intermission)


     

artists

cast

Richard Cotovsky (Arthur Przybyszewski), Preston Tate, Jr. (Franco Wicks), Millie Hurley (Randy), Eugene Parker (James), Paige Smith (Max, select performances), Greg Rothman (Max, select performances), Susan Monts-Bologna (Lady Boyle), John Gray (Luther), Dereck Garner (Kevin), Bryan Kelly (Kiril)

behind the scenes

Matt Miller (director); Robert Groth and Jenniffer Thusing (set design); Matthew Gawryk (lighting); Stefin Steberl (costumes); Allie Kunkler (hair and makeup); David Woolley (fight design); Katherine Greenleaf (props); Joe Court (sound); Andrew C. Donnelly (stage manager); Jim Stevens (asst. director); Alison Barnes (asst. stage manager), Dennis Penager (props asst.), Carlo Lorenzo Garcia (graphic design); Susan Jodry (public relations); Rudy Galvan (box office)

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Category: 2012 Reviews, J.H. Palmer, Mary-Arrchie Theatre, Metropolis Arts Centre, Tracy Letts

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