Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 31, 2011

Superior Donuts

New Century Theatre, Smith College, Northampton, MA
through August 6th
by Jennifer Curran

About ten minutes into the play a distinct and not unwelcome feeling took over the room. It was almost as if the audience was watching a taping of a classic sitcom rather than a play. The structure of "Superior Donuts," a dark comedy, is in fact very similar to sitcoms of old and it is used brilliantly by playwright, Tracy Letts.

Elements of light-hearted joy, race relations, and the generational gap are all here for examination. The setting is a donut shop in Chicago's Uptown district. The shop has seen better days and as a sign of the times, is struggling to exist since Starbucks has opened across the street. The set design by Daniel Rist is authentic and simplistic.
"Donuts" is hysterically funny. Comedic timing here is pitch perfect. Barry M. Press' Max Tarasov is a constant comic relief, but behind the funny is something else entirely.

From the center of the story comes Arthur Przybyszewski, played with grace and gentleness by Rand Foerster. Foerster's detached and often befuddled Arthur is instantly likable and completely fallible. His low key approach could have easily been forgettable while contending with the high energy antics of Johnnie McQuarley's Franco Wicks. Foerster has the difficult job of grounding the play and giving McQuarley someone to spar with, which he did superbly. McQuarely bounds, jumps, jokes and laughs. Franco only sees the good and the possibilities in all things while his new boss is left desperately trying to bring his new hire back down to earth.

The two new friends are forced into a reversal of roles that has all the potential of becoming the stuff of greeting cards and after-school special sappiness. The deft direction by Steve Brady avoids that, and in the final moments of "Donuts" the audience is given an honest moment of great courage on the part of both characters. Courage is what this play is about. It's about having the courage to get back up no matter hard you've fallen.