by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Players by the Sea in Jacksonville Beach has opened playwright Tracy Letts’ comedy/drama with the mouth-watering title Superior Donuts. It will be in the Studio Theatre evenings Thursday-Saturday till November 19th, with a 2 pm matinee on November 13th.
This is the first Tracy Letts play to be done in Jacksonville to our knowledge but he is well known in the theatrical world, as he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2008 with his August: Osage County.
The setting is an old fashioned donut shop, called Superior Donuts and located in the Uptown section of Chicago. It is run by an almost sixty-year-old draft dodge, Arthur Przybyzewski, who inherited the shop from his parents. He is the owner, manager, and maker of hand-crafted donuts. The flamboyant Max Tarasov owns a neighboring porno flick shop, and wants to buy the donut shop so he can expand his business into more legit items like electronics and televisions, but Arthur does not want to sell.
Things begin to change when a young personable African-American named Franco Wicks shows up in response to a help-wanted ad in the window. Arthur is reluctant to hire the fast-talking Franco, but is taken in by his enthusiasm and optimism. Franco also persuades Arthur to read his just-completed novel, “America Will Be,” still in a handwritten format, and further engages Arthur’s trust.
Franco is a college dropout because he needs money, but we won’t spoil things by revealing why; we will let you discover this when you see the show.
Arthur’s store is broken into and vandalized, and two local beat cops show up and also prove to be colorful characters. Susan Roche is Randy Osteen, the female cop who obviously wants to get to know Arthur better, but Arthur who has been divorced for several years, has forgotten how to even talk to women, and doesn’t know how to go about asking for a date. James Holly, Randy’s cop-partner is well played by David Girard.
This really get lively in the second act, when an irate bookie, Luther (Everett Street) and his menacing cohort Kevin (Jerald Wheat) show up, as does Max the excitable Russian (Jon Fine) and Kiril (David Garrett ), his giant of a cousin from the old county. Fine is especially hilarious as the foul mouthed, heavily accented, and highly successful immigrant.
There is one final reoccurring character, “Lady,” a bag lady whom Arthur kind-heartedly provides with daily free donuts and coffee. Gail Featheringill gives a very authentic portrayal of this needy urban character.
This show revolves around two leads. Roger Lowe as Arthur gives us a mesmerizing look at a withdrawn human being, beset by the past and not looking for much of a future until his eyes are opened by his relationship with much younger Franco. Lowe has excelled as a character actor on every stage in Jacksonville for many years and it is always a pleasure to see him on stage. As an aging hippie with a pony tail who dresses like a hobo, Lowe is indeed convincing especially in the mini-monologues delivered in dim lighting that fill the audience in on his life story.
The casting of Steve Anderson Jr. as Franco was excellent. He exudes youthful energy, magnetism, and charisma that change the direction of Arthur’s life, while in more serious moments he makes us feel sympathy for his personal problems.
Jason Collins is an award winning actor and director, and has done some outstanding casting for this play. His direction interacts with the talents of this cast to make these characters real for the audience.
The set by Sara Marino, who also is the costumer, is an almost photo-realistic interior, with a linoleum flooring, formica countertops, cushioned stools, bentwood chairs, and racks and racks of doughnuts. An especially nice touch is the gritty urban street-scape seen through the door and windows.
The stage manager is Michelle Wiggins, with properties by Claire Cimino, and lighting design by Jim Wiggins and Joe Schwartz.
Call 249-0289 for reservations. The Studio Theatre has less than 100 seats so call early. Don’t miss this cutting edge production.
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM