Theater review: Good production values, direction couldn’t fill holes in ‘Donuts’ script

The most authentic moment in “Superior Donuts” comes near the end, when the character Franco Wicks s

The most authentic moment in “Superior Donuts” comes near the end, when Franco Wicks (Brooks Brantly) sits silently at a table in the doughnut shop, in both physical and emotional pain. It comes too late, however, to save a play that often feels contrived.

“Superior Donuts,” by Tracy Letts, misfires on so many levels that the instances of genuine humor or insight it does provide about the American Dream get lost. The production at Capital Repertory Theatre, directed by Mark Fleischer, is more successful than the script but it, too, sometimes makes missteps.

‘Superior Donuts’

WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany

WHEN: Through Oct. 16

HOW MUCH: $60-$20

MORE INFO: 445-7469,

The script’s problems range from an uneasy relationship between humor (sometimes just plain silliness) and drama, to a main character whose static behavior becomes increasingly irritating, to monologues to the audience that seem simply to be an easy way out of conveying a back story.

It’s an unfocused play.

Lethargic owner

The story concerns Arthur Przbyszewski (George Tynan Crowley), the Polish proprietor of a doughnut shop in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. Founded by his parents 60 years earlier, the shop is not especially vibrant, thanks, in part, to Arthur’s lethargy. In fact, Arthur is lethargic about most things, paralyzed by memories of fleeing to Canada during the Vietnam War.

His marriage ended in divorce, and his former wife has just died. And he hasn’t seen his 19-year-old daughter in six years. Nor does he have much energy for the flirtatious female cop, Randy Osteen (Lee Roy Rogers), who is tired of acting like one of the boys.

Arthur’s property is coveted by his Russian neighbor, Max (Yury Tsykun), who is eager to be a successful American capitalist, once he learns all of the proper idioms of the language. Arthur won’t sell at any price, out of respect for his parents and inertia.

Into Arthur’s life comes Franco Wicks, a young African American man from the neighborhood who wants a job at the shop for reasons we discover only later. The two have a cat-and-mouse relationship, with Franco pushing Arthur to move on with his stalled life — maybe abandoning the anodyne of dope and the unfashionable ponytail? — and Arthur taking the young man’s writing aspirations seriously.

Each man, however, plays it close to the vest about a particular secret, and it’s Arthur’s self-protective instincts that finally drive a wedge between the two. Franco leaves.

Of course, at play’s end, after some rough developments involving Luther Flynn (Patrick White), a loan shark, and Kevin Magee (Cornelius Geaney Jr.), his enforcer, Franco and Arthur are reunited.

Other characters include Officer James Bailey (Phil McGlaston), Osteen’s partner; Lady Boyle (Roseann Cane), a wise old bag lady; and Kiril Ivakin (Shawn R. Morgan), Max’s brawny nephew.

To his credit, Fleischer allows the comedy of the script to be exaggerated when there’s no other way to do the scene, but those moments then feel mostly like broad TV sitcom. The script calls for a fight, which is, unfortunately, incredible to begin with, given the serious nature of what has just happened to Franco, and also too long and unconvincingly executed.

Stock expressions

Crowley and Brantly spar believably. In serious moments, however, Crowley relies too heavily on a few stock grimaces. White is chillingly menacing, and Tsykun makes the most of his last scene in Act II.

Ken Goldstein’s set, Jason Kantrowitz’s lighting, and Brad Berridge’s sound design aptly ground the play’s time and place, even when the happenings on stage hardly seem realistic.

I laughed from time to time, and I was hoping to feel more than I did throughout. Many in the large audience leaped to their feet at play’s end, but the evening did not cohere for me.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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