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Theatre Tue Jul 01 2008

Review: Superior Donuts

Superior Donuts, the new Tracy Letts play now running at Steppenwolf, has all the components of a fine piece of theatre. Fine acting chops, yes. A stunning set design that appears vividly, crisply real. Yet something is strangely lacking.

The story centers on a Polish donut storeowner's struggle to hold onto the past and resist the temptation to sell his store to a very persistent Russian who dreams of opening the electronics emporium of the neighborhood. The setting is Uptown, in the present, yet there's something distinctly retro about this story. The female cop who lusts after the protagonist feels reminiscently Hill Street Blues. And the donut lady — the shop’s one consistent customer — is funny but in a predictable way, like a character on the hit '70s T.V. show "Alice."

What’s missing in this play is some emotional bravery. The first act develops nicely, and the juicy dialogue (“Is Anyone Paying Attention in America?”) is entertaining. Yet there’s not a character like Deanna Dugan from Letts’s superior play, August Osage Country, that swept the audience into her tidal wave of debilitation and psychotic derangement. What we have here is a man that Letts slowly exposes as weak and ultimately uninteresting. Even when he sticks up for himself in the fight scene (the most compelling scene of the play), you can’t help but feel sorry for him. It’s a universal story of what happens to someone when they let their life pass them by yet this story fails to stir the audience or provide a resolution. And Franco (Jon Michael Hill), the African American co-worker who gets maimed by the bookie thugs and has his Great American novel torn to shreds, feels clichéd.

 
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Ken GreenAuthor Profile Page / July 2, 2008 9:25 AM

Like a character on "Alice"? OH, Tracey Letts takes a big hit...

But seriously, is it worth spending the $40-something bucks? If it's sitcom/TV cliche stuff, I don't think I want to see it.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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