The Lyric Stage Company has a hit on its hands: SUPERIOR DONUTS! Director Spiro Veloudos said to me at intermission, “If you choose the right cast, your work is done– just step aside and let them do what they do.” Well this cast gets it done– they make the donuts– and how.
The masterful ensemble is headed by local legends Will Lebow as Arthur Przybyszewski (simpler than it looks– but then, I’m Polish) a pessimistic Polish donut shop owner in Uptown Chicago, and Karen MacDonald as Officer Randy Osteen a shy Irish cop who’s sweet on him. Enter Franco Wicks (Omar Robinson) an exuberantly upbeat black ex-student who– according to him–has just completed the great American novel– but is out of a job. He walks in on the very day the shop has been vandalized and talks Arthur into hiring him!
Robinson is inescapably charismatic as Franco; his energy stirs everything up. Arthur has just about closed up shop, and Franco immediately sets about prying him open. LeBow’s performance is a miracle of ease and restraint; his Arthur– though a wounded soul trailing a forlorn history– is full of sly humor and intelligence.
Steven Barkhimer is flawless as Max Tarasov, the flamboyant Russian entrepreneur next door who’s pressuring Arthur to sell him the shop; he’s also the source of much of the play’s humor in the form of bawdy malapropisms. Beth Gotha as the homeless alcoholic “Lady” is a marvel of dotty vulnerability and unexpected wisdom. De’Lon Grant is perfect as Officer James Bailey, a nerdy “Trekker” in cop’s clothing.
But Tracy Letts play is a few crullers short of a dozen. It hangs together in the present– we care about the immediate drama building around these characters; but when Arthur periodically steps out of the present, into a lone spotlight and monologues his way into the past, the drama crumbles. Arthur’s struggle to redeem his sense of personal failure– a result of his stance on the Vietnam war, the collapse of his marriage and relationship to his daughter, is awkwardly integrated into the mix. It’s back in the present, that this cast leads us touchingly through the rhythms of disappointment, humor, love, and resolve that together make up a decent life– if not a Superior donut.
See SUPERIOR DONUTS at THE LYRIC STAGE COMPANY OF BOSTON through February 4! (You can pick up a donut at intermission!)