Thursday July 20th 2017

“Superior Donuts”

One of the great  things about the Chicago theater scene is that when a show does well at one of our smaller storefronts, and the cast is still available to do so, it moves to another stage, allowing more Chicago audiences to partake of the excitement generated by the original. Over the years, The Royal George Cabaret on Halsted has been one of these hosts. Solid productions such as “Killer Joe” and “A Steady Rain” were remounted in this, the smaller venue in the depths of the building and now, Mary-Arrchie Theatre has moved its highly acclaimed production of Tracy Letts’ “Superior Donuts” to this intimate space- with the original cast! How great is that?

“Superior Donuts” is a Chicago story, one filled with heart and soul as two opposites find each other and help alter their lives. Arthur Przybazewski ( a marvelous, heartwarming performance by Richard Cotovsky, who will remind you of Chong from “Cheech and Chong” fame), an aging store owner of the family business, “Superior Donuts” in the uptown neighborhhod. The are is changing and people are more for the Starbucks type of shop over the old coffee/donut shops that used to fill the city. Arthur was an anti-war activist, sort of “hippie” who had a wife ( she left him, divorced him and recently died) and a daughter who he has not seen in many years. His shop is his life. His days are filled with making the dough for the next days batches of donuts and his steady visitors, Lady ( Joanna Maclay) a homeless woman who has her java and donut daily ( a gift from Arthur) and her bottle, the two cops on the beat James ( Bradford Stevens) and his partner Randy (deftly handled by Millie Hurley, who proves that solid acting can make even a smaller role, stand out) and neighbor Max ( a dynamic character played with great intensity by Paige Smith) the Russian proprietor of an electronics store who wants to expand and take over the donut shop.

While Arthur cannot afford to take on more help, he does need a counter person and so he hires a young student type, Franco ( Preston Tate jr. truly brings the right feel to this character who changes Arthur’s life). Smoothly directed by Matt Miller on a set designed by Bob Groth and Jennifer Thusing, this two act, two plus hours of theater is filled with comic moments and great story telling. If you have experienced a  Tracy Letts play, you know that he gets deep into the characters and relationships. This play is no different. As we watch the relationship between Arthur and  Franco develop, we learn that Franco has written “the great American Novel”, which Arthur reads and likes. We also learn that Franco has a gambling problem which brings in the bookie,Luther (  well played by Karl Potthoff) and his henchman Kevin ( Christopher Borek). It seems that Frano’s debt is quite high and bookies must set exapmles for others.

What happens causes Arthur to rethink his future and we see a great transformation of his character. There is a marvelous fight scene between Arthur and  Luther stage to perfection by David Wooley. This scene is so well done, you would swear that someone must be getting hurt. and the lighting (Matthew Gawryk) and sound(Joe Court) add to the over all beauty of the production. Katherine Greenleaf does an amazing job of gathering props ( a great number and some get tossed about the stage during the fight scene) along with Stefin Steberl’s costumes to complete the picture painted for us by Miller. There is alos a love story in this play, one that takes some time to develop, but one that seems natural. Letts has a way of making his characters very real. People you might meet in your every day life, on the street, waiting for a bus or even in a donut shop.

While this is a remounting of a previous production, in fact, the second as this show was done for a short time up in Arlington Heights at The Metropolis Theatre, it is in no way, any less than the original. In fact, by remounting the show a second time in a much more desirable location, they may have re-inspired the actors to bring new life and excitement to the entire production. There is one other character that I should mention, Kiril ( Bryan Kelly) Max’s nephew who has just arrived from Russia, a big burly yet shy man who makes sure that the fight scene goes according to Arthurs’ plan.

This remount of “Superior Donuts” will continue at The Royal George cabaret Theatre located at 1641 N. Halsted through November 25th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays,Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $50 ( students and seniors save $10) and can be purchased at the box office by calling 312-988-9000, in person or online at www.ticketmaster.com. You can also call Mary-Arrchie at 773-704-6000

There is valet parking on premise, metered parking on Halsted, the Steppenwolf garage or some street parking a few blocks away with no meters.

There are many dining spots nearby and we found a new one ( at least to us) just a few doors away- Mangia Roma a Pizzeria Trattoria that has one of the best meatball Panninis I have ever tasted. They have three other options Chicken Parmigiana,Italian Sausage and Eggplant Parmigiana- all under $10. In fact, the complete entree menu is filled with items less than $20 and the portions are easily ones you can share. The pizza, by the way looked fantastic. Perhaps next time. They are located at 1623 N. Halsted. For reservations call 312-475-9801 or visit www.mangiaromaitalian.com  They do not have donuts!

To learn more about “Superior Donuts”  go back to my home page and link on to theatre in Chicago, then go to review round-up and click on to “Superior Donuts”

 

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