When Brooks Brantly saw “Superior Donuts” on Broadway in the fall of 2009, he immediately felt a connection to Franco Wicks.
“I saw the original production in New York and I knew right away that’s a character I can do,” said Brantly, an Illinois native who is playing Franco in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy Letts’ play about a doughnut shop owner in Chicago and the young black man who tries to help him with the business.
“I knew the guy playing Franco; Jon [Michael Hill] is a friend of mine, and we went backstage after the show and talked about the production. When I saw Jon up there I said to myself, ‘I want to do that, too.’ It just looked like so much fun.”
Joining Brantly in the Capital Rep production are George Tynan Crowley as Arthur, the shop owner, and Lee Roy Rogers as Randy, a female police officer. Both have extensive acting credits in New York, while also featured in the play are Albany residents Yury Tsykun as Max Tarasov and Patrick White as Luther.
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 North Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, through Oct. 16
HOW MUCH: $60-$20
MORE INFO: 445-SHOW, www.capitalrep.org
“Franco comes across as a street-wise kid who ends up being a brilliant writer,” said Brantly, describing his character. “He’s 21, but he’s in debt so he’s looking for some work. He’s got a gambling problem, but he’s a very smart kid and he’s always looking for the right angle.”
When the doughnut shop is vandalized, it is Franco who enters the scene and encourages Arthur to get right back to work.
“Arthur has no sense of urgency after his doughnut shop is vandalized,” said Brantly. “You also learn that his ex-wife has died, so he’s kind of a passive sort of person who doesn’t get too upset over things. But Franco enters and has all these ideas for Arthur, and eventually he gets Arthur to come out of his shell and become brave enough to live his life. It’s actually a very sweet, heart-warming story.”
But there is plenty of trouble.
“There are some laughs in it, but I hesitate to call it a comedy,” said Brantly. “No, there’s a whole lot of people fighting different battles, so it’s pretty serious. Franco and Arthur aren’t similar characters, but they each have their own turmoil they’re going through.”
Race is also an issue in the play, and that’s fine with Brantly.
“I’m at the beginning of what I hope is a long career, so I don’t know if I’m going to keep getting all this work that deals with black problems,” said Brantly, who is 26. “But acting is about exploring the human condition, and race relations is part of that. I’m never disappointed about these kind of roles, so I look forward to it, I’m not afraid of it, and I’ve learned to be comfortable discussing it. People have to talk about it, and while race issues can be tricky, it will only be as tricky as we let it.”
Brantly is a May graduate of the University of Connecticut MFA Acting Program and earned his BA in acting from Morehouse College in Atlanta. He is single and living in Harlem.
“When I was growing up, martial arts and sports were very important to me,” he said. “It wasn’t until late in high school and then especially in college when I really got into acting full time. My mother was an actress and she influenced me. She went to Carnegie Mellon and was always involved in plays and always walking around the house singing.”
Singing, however, isn’t Brantly’s strong point.
“No, I don’t see myself belting out a solo number on Broadway,” he said. “Singing is not my gift.”
Acting, however, is something he is definitely passionate about.
“I love acting because it’s a great way to learn new things,” he said. “We all have different ways of learning things, and for me the best way to learn is to do it. As an actor, you learn the perspective of the character you’re playing. You go a step beyond just reading about it. I’ve learned so much about different worlds from playing different characters.”
Directing the Capital Rep production is Adirondack Theatre Festival Artistic Director Marc Fleischer. Also in the cast are Phil McGlaston, Roseann Cane and Cornelius Geaney. Ken Goldstein is the set designer and Adam McLean is the fight director, a job close to Brantly’s heart.
“I’m out of the loop watching sports these days,” he said. “I just don’t have the time. But I still play some basketball and I’m very much into fight choreography. I love being the fight captain for this show.”
And if he doesn’t get everything just right, he’ll have at least one big fan who will set him straight.
“My mom’s coming to the show,” he said. “She’s pretty much my manager, and she always has advice. She’ll have some notes for me after the show, even if I do a great job. She’ll say, ‘That was great baby, but that second act, that one scene, you were a little too strong.’ She’ll have something to say. She gets involved because she loves her family.”
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Categories: Life and Arts