DatesMar 16 thru Apr 15
There is a certain dive bar hominess crusty local coffee shops possess that the big name chains cannot touch. That’s the down-and-out feel Theatre Three goes for in their poignant and powerful production of Tracy Letts’ Superior Donuts, about a donut shop in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago and its broken down “old hippie” proprietor, Arthur Przybyszewski (Van Quattro).
The play, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of August: Osage County, opens — and remains – in said shop (beautifully appointed and rendered by David Walsh) where there has been a recent crime of a brick thrown through the window and an obscenity sprayed painted on the wall. It is yet another of life’s blows to the downtrodden Arthur who is barely hanging on to the business that has been in his Polish immigrant family for sixty years. His ex-wife died recently; he has not seen his daughter in many years; and Max (Rick Espaillat in a great gonzo of a performance), a Russian entrepreneur who owns the adjacent DVD store, is breathing down Arthur’s neck to sell the donut shop space so he can expand his fledgling empire.
Franco Wicks (Chris Piper), a fast-talking, “intrepid” young man strides into this morose milieu looking for a job. The enterprising Franco has plenty of ideas about how to fix up the business, and Arthur’s life. The friendship between these two men, one in trouble but full of hope, and the other a shell of human being loaded down with sadness, is the core of this dark comedy with a heart.
Officers Randy (Brandi Andrade with a solid Midwestern accent) and James (a commanding Darius Warren) provide local flavor, a love interest, and comic relief. Luther (Bill Jenkins, straight out of central casting) is a heartless bookie with an ulcer, and his tough, Kevin (a deliciously smarmy Daylon Walton) bring the danger and menace.
Quattro’s Arthur contains the emotional force of the play, and his performance is a varied, yet steady study in internal acting. We believe he is that poor man from his piercing, gloomy eyes to his tattered Levis. As Franco, Piper (fresh off of a blistering performance in AART’s Free Man of Color) has a rejuvenating effect on Arthur and the audience. He possesses impeccable timing, and an energy and ease on stage that is simply enchanting. Despite the quality performances, the production could tighten up a bit, clean up some of the pauses and polish the fight scenes. But they are very close to having a perfect play the way it is.