October 22, 2009

Superb


After seeing Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts's savagely funny but distressing August: Osage County, I just HAD to see his comedy Superior Donuts, fresh from Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre.

Michael McKean stars as the unobtrusive Arthur Przybyszewski, the owner of a donut shop in Uptown Chicago started by his immigrant father in the '50s. He is a pony-tailed draft dodger, estranged from his only daughter and mourning the death of his ex-wife, completely oblivious to Officer Randy Osteen's (Kate Buddeke) affection for him. Other shop regulars are Randy's partner Officer James Bailey (James Vincent Meredith), and Lady Boyle (Jane Alderman), the resident kooky lady.

The humdrum of life is broken by the arrival of Franco Wicks (Jon Michael Hill), a brash budding author in search of a job. His character gets the most laughs for his zippy lines, and predictably, he and Arthur become unlikely friends. These two actors have wonderful chemistry. The young man's engaging confidence plays off well against Mr. McKean's understated performance. It was a pleasure to see an actor that I know from Spinal Tap and Laverne & Shirley play such a quiet, disinterested man.

Robert Maffia is Luther Flynn with henchman Kevin Magee(played by Cliff Chamberlain), the play's requisite bad guys. Yasen Peyankov hams it up as Max Tarasov, who owns a DVD store next door. Michael Garvey plays Tarasov's nephew Kiril in a short but unforgettable role.

Mr. Letts's comedy still packs an emotional wallop, but not as brutal as August. This one's caffeinated, cinnamon-flavored and sugar-raised.

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