PHOTO: Allan Whitehead and Neila Lake in 'Superior Donuts.' Photo by Monica Mulder.
"Full credit goes to Theater on the Edge for keeping me riveted to my seat" - by Seth Kubersky
Another great review is in for SUPERIOR DONUTS! Click the link below to read the full review...
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Theater On The Edge serves up a gleefully glazed, piping-hot production of 'Superior Donuts'
By SETH KUBERSKY
Luckily, not every troupe has taken off for the summer. Right now through July 2, up-and-coming company Theater On The Edge is serving up a gleefully glazed, piping-hot production of Superior Donuts. Aging ex-hippie Arthur Przybyszewski (Allan Whitehead) has spent most of his 60 years assiduously avoiding conflict, whether dodging the Vietnam War draft or deflecting his neighbor Max's (Robb Maus) entreaties to sell his struggling Chicago doughnut shop. Arthur is so averse to unpleasantness, he barely interacts with the cops (Cecilia Gazzara, Mark Kelly) investigating the vandalism of his restaurant. But Arthur's reticence is disrupted by Franco Wicks (Sean Philippe), an underprivileged teen who talks his way into employment and ends up becoming a surrogate son. When Wicks runs afoul of the neighborhood bookie (Marco DiGeorge) and his goon (Zack Roundy), Arthur must finally leave the sidelines and stand up for something.
Tracy Letts' Superior Donuts, which had a brief run on Broadway in 2009, is probably the most accessible play from an author better known for the brutal dramas Bug and Killer Joe. In fact, the storyline is so sitcom-like in its setup that CBS spun it off into a half-hour comedy starring Judd Hirsch. But dig beneath the comic facade and you'll find a script grappling with questions of color, class and the cruel edge of the American dream. At the heart of the show is the relationship between Arthur, the cynical second-generation Polish immigrant, and Franco, the ambitious African-American teen. The pair's interaction evolves from witty odd-couple patter to something more profound as they bond despite barriers of race and age. The two leads are terrific, especially Philippe, a stand-up comic whose kinetic hyperverbalism recalls a young Chris Tucker; his emotional final interaction with Whitehead adds unexpected weight to the ambiguous ending.
However, director Pam Harbaugh hasn't struck quite the right balance of humor and humanity with the rest of her cast. Arthur's romantic interludes with his police paramour are cringe-worthy in their juvenile goofiness, and scenes with the antagonists are undermined by inconsistent accents and unconvincing combat.
Perhaps this production's biggest problem is its greatest asset; designer Samantha DiGeorge's hyper-realistic set is so authentic, you'll be tempted to order a dozen during intermission. But with the ultra-realistic environment come agonizingly slow scene changes that rob the show of momentum and inflate the running time by nearly 30 minutes beyond the Broadway version.
Theater on the Edge hit home runs with their last two shows, so there's no shame in scoring a solid triple this time. Even if the cake underneath this confection is undercooked, the fantastically funny frosting is well worth the calories.