Every so often you encounter the perfect pairing of actor and role. Mary-Arrchie founding member and Artistic Director Richard Cotovsky has found one of those roles. From his shoulder-slumped shuffle to his cautious and weary gaze, Cotovsky fully embodies Arthur, an inert Uptown donut shop owner who’s the center of Tracy Lett’s 2008 play, Superior Donuts.
Arthur, and his decaying, family-owned shop, are stuck in time, waiting for whatever to step in and say, “show’s over, time to move along, donut man.” Not even the lonely lady cop (Millie Hurley), who stops in daily to drop hints like lead balloons, gets through to him. Nor does the recent act of vandalism to his shop, an event that opens the play, throw him for a loop. Put on the apron and pick up the glass, it’s just another day to endure. This is a man who’s resigned himself to living a life full of yesterdays.
It isn’t until the persuasive Franco Wicks (Preston Tate, Jr.) breezes into his shop looking for a job that Arthur begins to smell the stale donut house coffee. A chronic idealist, Franco sees potential in the dusty shop: an anti-Starbucks haven for students and other locals with music, healthy food options and free wi-fi. Of course Arthur nixes the idea, but the needle has been moved — just a smidge. And Franco’s influence, as slight as it may seem, has deep and long-lasting impact — particularly when it comes time for Arthur to stand up for something other than his selfish, defeatist existence. In turn, Arthur recognizes a hidden talent in Franco, which ignites an inner fire.
As a follow-up to his groundbreaking August: Osage County, Letts’ Donuts is a shockingly simple play, relatively speaking. There are no histrionics, no sudden third act revelations that turn the entire show on its head. No: it’s a simple, straightforward and beautifully constructed play about people and relationships and the pain and necessity of change.
In short: I really dig Donuts.
And Mary-Arrchie’s superbly directed, designed and acted production is very much worth seeing, exemplifying the very best of Chicago storefront theatre. So get your tickets before this show closes up shop.
“Superior Donuts” plays through March 25 at Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co. More info here >