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Theatre Review: Superior Donuts

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, November 4, 2011

Chicago is a city populated by immigrants from almost every corner of the globe. And they all seem to stop for a snack at Superior Donuts, an old family-owned shop run by Arthur, a silver-haired hippie. Lately, he's been feeling pressure from the corporate competition.

Arthur: "Business isn't so hot anyway. That Starbucks is killing me."

Randy: "Your coffee is better!"

Arthur: "I used to ask a quarter for a cup of coffee. Free refills."

Of course, the world's a different place now, and the Russian immigrant who runs the video shop next door urges Arthur to modernize his business plan.

Max: "Donut is like video tape. It's over! Time change everything and donut has been left behind."

Arthur: "Time hasn't changed me."

Arthur thinks a lot about the past, and shares his memories in monologues.  But then he hires an assistant - a young African American who tells Arthur to focus on his customers.

Franco: "Hey, you don't see a brother at Starbucks. And you ain't never seen a brother at Whole Foods. I mean can you picture that, a big angry black man shopping at Whole Foods, arms full of soy cheese emanations, and starfruit." (Laughter)

Since Chicago is the setting, the story also features cops and gangsters, swelling this show's cast to a robust nine actors. This play climaxes with a rambling fight scene.

"Superior Donuts" is a slice-of-life drama in which both joyous and tragic events befall diverse neighbors who try to help each other out. And like a good donut, this production sustains a beautiful balance -- it's not too heavy, and not too sweet. It's also a marvelous ensemble piece, with Matt K. Miller giving one of his strongest performances as the old hippie. Janis Stevens, who ordinarily plays divas, has a cameo as a bag lady. And newcomer Jammy K. Bulaya stirs things up as the young black man with big plans. This show has a strong script, powerful performances, and a natural flow onstage. It's a solid debut effort in Capital Stage's new digs.
Superior Donuts plays at Capital Stage through November 13th.
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