‘Superior Donuts’ makes for superior theatre at Custommade

(Charles Kruger)

Rating: 4/5 » Highly Recommended

Arthur Przbyszeski is not a happy-go-lucky guy. Tired, embittered, depressed and indifferent, he drags himself every day to the donut shop he inherited from his father. It’s a dump. When he arrives one morning to find it has been vandalized, he doesn’t seem to care much.

Don Wood as Arthur Przbyszeski and Chris Marsol as Franco Wicks in Custommade's production of Tracy Letts' "Superior Donuts". Photo Credit: Jay Yamada.
Don Wood as Arthur Przbyszeski and Chris Marsol as Franco Wicks in Custommade’s production of Tracy Letts’ “Superior Donuts”. Photo Credit: Jay Yamada.

In spite of his misery, though, Arthur is sweet and likeable, as are his few customers. There is a friendly, supportive cop and his lady cop partner (who has an obvious crush on Arthur). There is the  bear like, explosive Russian businessman from next door, bouncing with energy. And then there’s a young Black kid, a natural salesman, who busts in pleading for a job.

As the characters settle in, this play reminds of nothing so much as William Saroyan’s old chestnut, “The Time of Your Life” which sympathetically followed the lives of a few barflies on the San Francisco waterfront. The characters are all likeable, gently observed, sweetly played.

But in Tracy Letts‘ superior handling, there is an undertow of threat that endangers the characters’ well being. Arthur’s depression is real, and perhaps suicidal. The friendly Russian, who apparently has some unsavory connections, is determined to push Arthur out of the neighborhood so that he can expand his business. The young Black man has a mysterious past that threatens to engulf the donut shop in some serious violence.

Superbly directed by Marilyn Langbehn, this production is full of delights.

Don Wood as aging hippie draft dodger Arthur is darn near perfect. Simultaneously vulnerable and irascible, kind and distant, he deftly unfolds each revelation of character to reveal a fully realized human being. It is an exceptionally polished performance. As the young Black man with a disturbing secret, Chris Marsol is full of charismatic charm.

Dave Sikula also gives a standout performance as Max Tarasov, displaying a wide and surprising range of moods and an arresting physicality that is fascinating to watch.

I want to avoid any spoilers here, so I won’t offer much plot detail. But be assured that there are enough turns as a well-made twisted donut, and the results are theatrically delicious.

Superior Donuts will continue its extended run at Custommade Theatre through December 16th. For further information, click here.

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“Superior Donuts” by Tracy Letts, produced by Custommade Theatre, directed by Marilyn Langbehn. Scenic Design: Erik LaDue. Costume Design: Khizer Iqbal. Lighting Design: Mark D’Angelo. Sound Design: Cole Ferraiulo. Fight Choreography: Jon Bailey.

Arthur Przbyszeski: Don Wood. Franco Wicks: Chris Marsol. Max Tarasov: Dave Sikula. Kiril Ivankin: Shane Rhoades. Vicki Siegel: Lady Boyle. Ariane Owens: Officer Randy Osteen. Emmanuel Lee: Officer James Bailey. Shane Fahy: Luther Flynn. Rob Dario: Kevin Magee.

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