• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Superior Donuts

E-mail Print

Tracy Letts is a playwright for whom the description “great” is regularly applied. Like Mamet, Albee, and Williams before him, Letts is a winner of multiple honors for his work as a dramatist—including a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award. Letts’ 2007 stage epic “August: Osage County” has been rightfully compared to “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Long Day’s Journey into Night.”

Yet in his latest script, “Superior Donuts” (onstage at Westwood’s Geffen Playhouse, through July 10), Letts departs from saga-like storytelling and instead gives us a microcosmic character study set within the confines of a Chicago donut shop.

Arthur Przybyszewski (Gary Cole in an intensely repressed portrait) is the hard-pressed proprietor of the flagging inner-city Superior Donut store. The small, Uptown bakery has been in the Przybyzewski family (the “P” is silent) for six decades. Though Arthur and his Polish donut-making dad had serious disagreements in the 60s for Arthur's alleged cowardice for fleeing to Canada rather than face the Viet Nam War,  Arthur has, nonetheless, inherited the establishment from his not-so-dearly departed father.

Now, twenty-five years later, we first encounter Arthur just subsequent to his ex-wife’s funeral. To add hazard to hurt, Superior Donuts has been vandalized, and the neighborhood cops (the quite believable duo of Mary Beth Fisher as Officer Osteen and Damon Gupton as Officer Bailey) are investigating this crime against property. Arthur, however, has recently been tending to this long-standing donut enterprise only sporadically and carelessly.

In a languid effort to keep the dough rolling, Arthur reluctantly hires an articulately pushy helper named Franco Wicks, a 21 year-old wannabe writer and proud black man, who forges a relationship with the mood-challenged Arthur, in spite of the latter’s resistance (Franco is played with charm and élan by Edi Gathegi).

When wisecracking Franco’s sordid past arrives at the doorstep of Superior Donuts—in the form of loan sharks, menacingly performed by Paul Dillon and Matt McTighe—apprehensive Arthur is given an opportunity to redeem himself, if only in his own mind, by bravely standing-up for his newfound friend.

“Superior Donuts” is competently directed by Randall Arney.  His sinuous approach works well in the midst of Letts’ scripted actions and character exchanges. Under Ned Mochel’s finessed choreography, “Superior Donuts” exhibits one of the best fistfights ever staged. Arney’s craftsmanship, however,  doesn’t save the show from waning somewhat during Arthur’s several soliloquies, which serve mostly to deliver exposition and to wax nostalgically while comparing and juxtaposing the macro-motions of time and space to the micro-movements of an individual lifetime.

“Donuts” has a terrific supporting cast,  including Ron Bottitta, Kathryn Joosten, and Brian Abraham, as well as top-notch production values (set design, John Arnone; costumes, Laura Bauer; sound/compositions, Richard Woodbury). Like a fine frosted fritter, “Superior Donuts” is a lot to swallow (a two-hour running time), but it is easily enjoyed; it may even leave some theatergoers feeling slightly glazed. But, if you have a hankering and the heart for some bittersweet drama (and judging by the audience’s reaction at the reviewed performance, many do), sample “Superior Donuts.” It may be to your liking.

“Superior Donuts” continues at the Geffen Playhouse—10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles—through July 10. Show times are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. Matinees are at 3 p.m. on Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays, with Sunday performances also at 7 p.m. For reservations, dial (310) 208 – 5454. For online ticketing and further information, visit 














Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.