At the Coal Mine Theatre, 1454 Danforth, Toronto, Ont.
Written by Tracy Letts
Directed by Ted Dykstra
Set and Costumes by Anna Treusch
Lighting by Kaileigh Krysztofiak
Sound by Verne Good
Cast: Darla Biccum
Jon Lachlan Stewart
A gut-busting, heart-bursting production of Tracy Letts’ latest play about letting go, looking forward, opening up one’s heart and letting people in. And there are donuts.
During the Viet Nam War Arthur Przybyszewski was a draft dodger from Chicago who found safe haven in Toronto. He returned home to run the family donut shop, Superior Donuts, when President Carter pardoned draft dodgers. It’s now December 2009. Business is terrible but Arthur hires Franco Wicks, an energetic, wily, smart young man to help him run the shop. A friendship develops and Franco offers Arthur more than just help selling donuts.
Max Tarasov owns a DVD store next to Arthur’s donut shop and wants to buy it but Arthur won’t sell. Superior Donuts has been in Arhtur’s family for 60 years and he can’t sell. It is the only thing he has that keeps him connected with his now dead parents. There was animosity between Arthur and his father when he left for Canada. By holding on in a way he is trying to make amends with his father. Max also has something to prove. He is an immigrant from Russia and owning the string of shops on the block will fulfill his idea of the American Dream. But Arthur won’t sell.
This is American playwright Tracy Letts channelling Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard—a family in financial need can’t sell their cherry orchard because it’s been in their family for years, even written up in the encyclopaedia, and a once simple peasant now wants to buy it.
Superior Donuts is a bracing, funny, achingly moving play about so many things that are good and decent about people. Even though it was written in 2010 it’s prescience about what is happening in the country of our neighbours to the south, is frightening.
Director Ted Dykstra’s production is a gift to those of us who love our theatre, smart, furiously funny, moving and heart-squeezing. And there is an extended fight scene created by Simon Fon that will have you holding your breath for a long time. Brilliant.
The cast is stellar. Robert Persichini plays Arthur, mournful, sombre, barely holding on, but with such dignity and compassion he makes your heart swell. Nabil Rajo plays Franco Wicks with such winning optimism and natural street smarts he is a perfect foil for Arthur. As Max, Alex Poch-Goldin shows us a man who is confident but so anxious and desperate to buy out Arthur and get his dream started, he takes your breath away.
This is a wonderful, wonderful production.
Full review soon.