By: Robert E Martin
With Pit & Balcony’s regional premier of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Lett’s socio-comedy Superior Donuts over the weekend of March 19-21st audiences were treated to a much-needed reprieve from social isolation with a contemporary tale from the city of Chicago, where a long-standing locally owned family donut shop faces an uncertain future not only due to the appearance of a brand spanking new recently opened Starbucks across the street; but more importantly, because of the personal malaise and sense of spiritual bankruptcy its beleaguered owner is experiencing.
Through this timely narrative of crime-laden cities and gentrification we are also treated to a cast of characters that breathe life into this abyss of desperation through the sense of hope each is able to instill within the other to form a congregation able to visualize pathways to a better future - and that, dear readers, is the essence of what makes Superior Donuts such a special theatrical experience.
With the focus of the action upon the two central characters of the shop-owner Arthur, who was convincingly portrayed by actor William Campbell; and inspired newcomer Isaiah Crawford as Franco - the energetic yet equally troubled young African-American assistance Arthur hires to give him assistance at the donut shop, we witness the two weave together a bond whereby each is able to see solutions to one another’s problems, even as they dismiss one another because of their respected ill-seated weaknesses.
To augment the evolving dialectic that carries throughout the play between these two characters, we are treated to a host of other uniquely iconic personalities who commonly frequent Super Donuts and lend their own singular insights into the ingredients of this tale that give Super Donuts such a special flavor.
Especially notable were veteran actor William Kircher as Max Tarasov - a neighborhood business-owner who possesses a particularly politically incorrect demeanor yet completely non-maliciously has a way to incisively cut through to the meat of the topic; and Jahari Essex, who as police officer James Bailey maintains a nonplussed and cool demeanor, saving the barbs for deadpan delivery.
Equally notable were Mary Spadafore as Lady Boyle, a homeless lady who savors the flavor of Superior’s donuts while using the wisdom of her acidic yet prescient tongue sparingly; and Katie MacLean-Peters who as Officer Randy Osteen delivers an equally laconic levity to the irony of her observations.
As Pit & Balcony’s first Black director, Glecia Tatum should feel proud to have served up such a smorgasbord of talent with a meticulous sense of guidance to detail, delivery, staging and visualization of this contemporary American tale of challenges and hope.