BLOOMSBURG - "Superior Donuts" is a tasty treat, but not overly sugary.
The Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble wraps up its 2012-13 season with Tracy Letts' comedy-drama, with 7:30 p.m. performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. matinees Sundays, now through May 19 at the Alvina Krause Theater, 226 Center St.
A Pulitzer Prize-winner for "August: Osage County," Letts has created deftly drawn characters - even if they're somewhat formulaic - who face demons in their everyday life.
The Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble wraps up its 2012-13 season with Tracy Letts’ comedy-drama, with 7:30 p.m. performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. matinees Sundays, now through May 19 at the Alvina Krause Theater, 226 Center St.
BTE's Elizabeth Dowd, who aptly directs the nine-member cast of ensemble members and guest artists, notes that she "loves this play because it reminds me that change is hard, but friendship makes it easier."
The middle-aged donut shop owner resists all change while a young black man, who fast talks the owner into giving him a job, seeks changes to rejuvenate the shop from adding music to introducing a low-calorie menu. It is this odd couple whose jostling provides lots of laughs in Act I, but switches tone to melodrama in Act II.
Heading the cast is James Goode as ex-hippie Arthur Przybyszewski, who owns "Superior Donuts," having inherited the shop from his father. A co-founder of BTE, Goode concludes his 35th year with the acclaimed regional ensemble, which celebrates its 35th year anniversary season. With his ponytail, Goode effectively shows the donut shop owner to be stuck emotionally and unhappy with his existence.
In a series of short monologues during the play, Arthur moves into a spotlight to directly address the audience, filling in the backstory of his messed-up life (from draft-dodging the Vietnam War and his ex-wife's death, to his estranged daughter whom he hasn't seen in several years.)
In the play's pivotal role, Ben Will plays Franco Wicks, the young buoyant novelist who bursts into the donut shop with dreams that shake up Arthur's world.
Guest artist Will is thoroughly believable in this showy role as he tries with boundless energy to avoid those seeking to collect on his debt while writing his self-proclaimed "great American novel."
"Superior Donuts" is set in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood, but when I first saw the play, exactly two years ago at Pittsburgh Public Theatre, there were references and dialogue which made it appear that the locale should have been in the Steel City (One scene which tickled the Pittsburgh audience has a business man asking Franco if he is named "after Generalissimo," only to have him reply "No. After Franco Harris").
Andrew Hubatsek plays Max, the loud Russian appliance store owner who urges Arthur to sell the shop so he can expand his business. Hubatsek, with his diminutive stature highlighted by being paired up with a really tall buddy, creates a funny Mutt-and-Jeff visual effect.
Daniel Roth and Richard Cannaday are the vile, violent hoodlums who make Franco pay a heavy price. Also hanging out at the donut shop are Laurie McCants as a cop with maybe a crush on Arthur, and William Bryson as her Star Trek-loving partner. Completing the cast is Phyllis Bernatonis as a homeless woman who stops by for her daily craving for a donut.
With the exception of a doorway to the off-stsge kitchen, there is only one door in the finely detailed donut shop set. Looking old and slightly grimy-looking with its radiators, old freezer, diner stools and overhead lamps, "Superior Donuts" also has lots of props, which you may guess includes many, many donuts.
The admonition "Contains Adult Language" means lots of expletives, which fly out of the mouths of different characters throughout the play.
With a running time of nearly two and a half hours, with an intermission, "Superior Donuts," is well-paced, but a tad too long. Likewise, the climatic wrestling and fighting between Arthur and the enforcer lasts over two minutes and, although nicely choreographed and executed, also is too long, prompting some audience laughter in the otherwise tension packed scene.
The ending of "Superior Donuts" is somewhat predictable but that is not necessarily a drawback. The playwright has provided the ingredients and BTE has blended them into a recipe that shows the power of friendship and how it can provide the impetus for redemption.
The resulting concoction is, theatrically, very tasty entertainment.
Ticket reservations: 784-8181 or 800-282-0283; or visitwww.bte.org.