By Bob Evans
Upon entering OCTA’s auditorium, one cannot miss the brilliant, gigantic, scarlet vulgarity painted on the back wall of the set, which sets in motion the first conflict to face an ageing rebel as he struggles to maintain his inherited business, a donut shop in a crumbling
section of Chicago, just beginning a rebirth cycle.
The landlord, Arthur, faces the problem of fewer and fewer customers because of a new Starbucks opening across the street, and the idea that donuts do not sell as they did before the health craze overtook Americans. Muffins, whole grains, fruit, smoothies, etc. now compete with his donut business, and the new Starbucks with name recognition, national advertising, fresh approach to specialty coffee drinks detract from his donuts and plain coffee.
“Superior Donuts” by Tracy Letts, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright of “August Osage County” fame, takes on a fresh, simple approach with this charming play that confronts current situations, racial profiling, past regrets, and missed opportunity with gentle laughs, poignant moments, and sharp comedic jabs between the two principal characters, Arthur and Franco.
Directed by Diane Bulan, main characters, Arthur (Bill Pelletier) and Franco (Evan Lovelace) spar with cutting jabs to each other’s personas while never getting vicious or hitting below the belt. As the play continues, their relationship develops from employer/employee to a more father/son situation as they learn to trust and open their hearts. Flawless timing and chemistry between the two make the play work.
Some of the most memorable moments (beyond the two leads) come from Carol Leighton as Lady when she discusses her family and gives some depth and insight into the story-line of the play. Some really unexpected humor comes from Dan Heinz as a Russian body-builder who speaks only a little English. Both of their characters stand out in this production.
“Superior Donuts” gives audiences a sweet evening of entertainment without being overly comedic or deeply trenched in drama or message. The play is the story of a part of the city trying to come back and reclaim past glory. At the same time, “Superior Donuts” allows the characters to reflect of past mis-steps and opportunities to reclaim what was lost as they try to resurrect their lives and move forward. The show is a gentle blend of past problems and present situations, with hope for the future.
This production being some new faces to the OCTA stage, and, in this case, gives Evan Lovelace his first non-singing/dancing role in the KC area. Paired with Pelletier, Lovelace shows he can stand toe-to-toe with the heavy hitters. Also new to OCTA are Dennis Jackson, Carol Leighton, and Addison Parker.
Flanked by a strong supporting cast, Pellitier and Lovelance lead a strong company of performers. The cast is: Addison Parker as Max Tarasov, Ellen DeShon as Officer Randy Orsteen, Dennis Jackson as Officer James Bailey, Carol Leighton as Lady Boyle, Bill Pelletier as Arthur Przybyszewski, Evan Lovelace as Franco Wicks, Michael Juncker as Luther Flynn, Dave Fullerton as Kevin Magee, and Dan Heinz as Kiril Ivakin.
The production crew for “Superior Donuts” is: Diane Bulan, director; D.K. Evenson, stage manager; Meghan Deveroux, assistant stage manager; Camille Lerch, lighting designer; Eric Palmuist, set and properties designer; Cynthia Hyer, fight choreographer; Michael Bunn, sound designer; Chuck Cline, projections designer; Darcy Russell, costume designer; Alex Leondedis, sound technician, Quinn North, dramaturg.
“Superior Donuts” continues through April 22 at Olathe Civic Theatre Association, 500 E. Loula, Olathe, KS. Tickets may be purchase by phone at 913.782.2990 or through the OCTA website.
Tags: OCTA, Olathe Civic Theatre Association, “Superior Donuts”, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment