Tracy Letts’ stirring play “Superior Donuts,” directed by Serge Seiden, is at The Studio Theatre at 14th and P in Northwest, D.C. The play, set in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, takes place in a donut shop owned and run by an ex-draft evader, Arthur. He’s something of a disheveled man, living with profound losses: his dreams, his wife, daughter, even his parents’ business.
He takes on an employee, Franco, a young African American man who has written a novel and has dreams of literary grandeur. He has other problems too which invade both his and Arthur’s lives. They end up exploring the ideal, which Langston Hughes sought, “America Will Be.”
The cast is strong: Max, who owns the business next door to Arthur’s is played by Gregor Paslawsky. Two Chicago police officers are ably portrayed by Julie-Ann Elliott and Jason McIntosh. A wise drunk is offered by Barbara Broughton. A crew of thugs is played by Chris Genebach, Logan Bennett, and Aaron Tone. But the two main characters are outstandingly played by Richard Cotovsky, as Arthur, and Johnny Ramey and Franco.
Arthur and Franco steal the show, in a good way. These two actors embody their characters with realism and tenderness. They create an unlikely friendship as they slowly share their stories with one another. Franco helps Arthur to open up to his own losses and together they come face to face with what is best and worst in human relationships.
The music, costumes, lighting, and set are evocative of the dingy donut shop they portray. The play shows us the struggles of friendships that cross race and age boundaries. It also shows us an immigrant nation moving into a new century.
The Studio Theatre is Washington, DC’s finest theatre for contemporary plays. It’s a comfortable, creative place and this production is well-worth seeing.