By Tracy Letts
Directed by Pam Harbaugh
Starring Allan Whitehead and Sean Philippe
Theater On The Edge
Hippies. Can’t believe they’re still around. Back in the Nixon era, Arthur Przybyszewski (pronounced “Przybyszewski”) (Whitehead) bailed for Canada to avoid the draft, a position I can’t say was wrong. Eventually he came home, rejected by his family and most of his ex-friends. A starving donut shop in a rough part of Chicago is his legacy, and a variable work ethic sets his income limits. He’s a good guy down deep; he feeds homeless Lady (Nelia Lake) and spars with his more ambitious Russian neighbor Max (Robb Maus). When we meet the man, someone has carefully trashed his shop, and ambitious hustler and writer Franco (Phillippe) arrives and takes over. He has the ideas Arthur can’t be bothered to consider, like longer open hours and an open mike night. He also has some debts to a tough guy, and that’s his downfall. Everyone has an angle, including police officer Randy (Ceveila Gazzara). She’d love to date an overweight hippie with access to pot and deep fried pastry.
It’s a slice of life on this stage, with everyone concealing a secret or a grudge. Whitehead is close to the ethnic good guys I knew from Milwaukee, and Franco is the bright, promising kid who knows how to climb out of a hole. Team him up with that Russian guy and they can take over Chicago. The two cops mostly serve as backstory, and while the tough guys (Zack Roundy and Marco Digeorge) motivate the story, they do not complete it. But they’re darn scary when they want to be.
Overall, this is an action packed show; fights and smashed crockery are everywhere. An oily glaze of stale donuts covers the floor, and even the coffee pot looks alike it could use a good vinegar soak. Taut, gripping and dangerous all describe this production, and like the previous performances I’ve witnessed in this space, the set (fabricated by Dan Cooksey) is move-set perfect. “Superior donuts” is not an easy show to watch, but it’s an easy show to love.