Superior Donuts – Superb performances hit San Diego fresh off Broadway
Enter the world of Superior Donuts, a quaint little family-owned-and-operated donut shop in Chicago with just three tables topped with napkin holders and a counter by the register. Suddenly the lights turn off. The sounds of chaos fill the room as glass shatters and furniture breaks. Finally light fills the room again as two cops investigate the mess of the entire scene, the tables are overturned, the chairs are broken, and the word “pussy” dominates the back wall. Thus starts the flawed yet highly enjoyable comedy Superior Donuts.
Stand-out performances by the actors dominate the production, especially by those the roles main roles of Arthur and Franco. Robert Foxworth provides a great performance as Arthur Przybyszewski, the aged stoner who owns and operates the struggling Superior Donuts, which was opened by his father. Foxworth plays Arthur with calm, nonchalance towards life and the shop’s vandalism with ease, which contrasts greatly with Anthony Phillip’s portrayal of Franco Wicks, an optimistic, young African-American man in debt and Superior Donuts’ newest hire. Phillips’ performance bursts with energy throughout the show whether he’s running around the shop sharing his ideas or even sitting silently in a chair.
The cast of quirky customers and visitors add to the overall charm and humor of the production. The minor characters, such as the local hobo Lady Boyle (Kathryn Herbruck) or the bookie Luther Flynn (Stephen Morgan-MacKay) and his muscle Kevin McGee (Tyler Joshua Herdklotz) have memorable appearances in both emotional and comical relief scenes. Max Tarazov (Dimiter D. Marinov), the Russian owner of the electronics store next to Superior Donuts, has some great moments throughout the play as much of what he says gets lost in translation especially with his towering nephew Kiril Ivankin (Brian Abraham). Officers Randy Osteen (Deanna Driscoll) and James Bailey (Keith Jefferson), have a delightful dynamic as partners on the force.
The individual performances were excellent and captivating, however there was much left to be desired within the plot, with little to no fault of the actors. Though a “comedy,” many scenes were interjected with emotion-filled melancholy flashbacks into Arthur’s past that were awkward at some points. These scenes did add depth to the character and help explain his motivations and interactions with those around him, such as his apprehension to befriend Franco or getting romantically involved with Officer Randy, which was odd but still believable. However, they weighed heavy on the overall tone of the production making it appear more as a drama with comic relief than a comedy with dramatic elements.
Arbitrary genre labels aside, there is something for every person in the audience to relate to and enjoy within the play, from race relations to political commentary, and even references to geekdom. Audiences will find themselves pleasantly entertained as they laugh and empathize with the lovely workers and visitors of Superior Donuts.
The San Diego Repertory Theatre presents Superior Donuts now through March 6th at the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza.
Photo credit to Daren Scott courtesy of the San Diego REP.