Real Life and Lots of Donuts: ‘Superior Donuts’ Opens at Silver Spring Stage by Lennie Magida

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It’s a shop in Chicago that’s worn out and rough around the edges—and you could say the same about many of the people who walk through its doors. Inside you can find freshly made donuts—assuming the proprietor, Arthur, has decided to open for business that day. You can also find Franco, a young aspiring novelist and shaker of the status quo. And you can find poetry, loss, friendship, and love.

Welcome to the world of Superior DonuComments 1ts, which opens this Friday, February 21st at Silver Spring Stage. It runs for four weekends—and, yes, there will be donuts!

L-R, Nick Torres (Arthur), Joel Beaven (Kiril), Jill Goodrich (Randy), Donta Hensley (Franco), William Cassidy (Max), and Joe Lewis (James).  Photo by Lennie Magida.
L-R, Nick Torres (Arthur), Joel Beaven (Kiril), Jill Goodrich (Randy), Donta Hensley (Franco), William Cassidy (Max), and Joe Lewis (James). Photo by Lennie Magida.

Written by Tracy Letts (best known for writing August: Osage County), Superior Donuts centers on the intertwining stories of Arthur Przybyszewski (pronounced “Shub-er-shef-ski”) and Franco Wicks. Arthur is a one-time Vietnam War draft evader who still clings to his ’60s sensibility—and sense of style. Franco is a young African American who, urgently in need of money for reasons that shortly become clear, takes a job at Superior Donuts. He tries to get Arthur interested in modernizing the shop. He’s also convinced that he has the next great American novel scrawled on a pile of notepads in his backpack.

“I see Superior Donuts as a comedy, drama, and love story,” says Director Stenise Reaves. “It’s a story about love and loss. It’s filled with damaged characters that I want to have a drink with. Sometimes it’s so funny that you laugh out loud; at other times, you are moved to tears.”

All this unfolds on Silver Spring Stage’s distinctive diamond-shaped stage. “It allows us to reproduce the feeling of looking into the windows of a corner store,” says Reaves. “It’s a really cool effect.”

In writing Superior Donuts, Reaves notes, Letts was inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem Let America Be America. “Throughout the poem,” she says, “Hughes contrasts his hopes for America with the reality of life for those outside of the dominant racial, religious, economic, and social groups.” It is those outsiders who populate Superior Donuts: Arthur and Franco; a Russian immigrant entrepreneur and his nephew; two beat cops—one an African American man who’s a Star Trek fanatic, the other an Irish American woman; an aging homeless woman, and a couple of thugs. These are not gentrifiers or urban glitterati.

Nick Torres, who plays Arthur, calls Arthur and Franco “The Odder Couple.” While Arthur’s many past troubles have led him “to cover all the dysfunction, all the feelings, with a perpetual stoned-ness,” Torres says, Franco embodies “youth and a belief in the possibility of everything. The humor comes from their opposing viewpoints.” Adds Torres, “Arthur does have joy buried deep within him. Franco gradually wears away the hiding places.”

In playing Franco, actor Donta Hensley says he has found something of a kindred spirit: “Franco and I share the same sense of humor and the joy of making life intriguing.” He also sees Franco’s endless ideas and self-belief as having their own kind of power, saying that “Franco’s strengths lie in his being self-motivated and a visionary. Those qualities give water to the roots that drive the dreamer within him.”

Donta Hensley (Franco), and Nick Torres (Arthur). Photo by Lennie Magida.
Donta Hensley (Franco), and Nick Torres (Arthur). Photo by Lennie Magida.

Joining Torres and Hensley in portraying the unique community of Superior Donuts are William Cassidy (Max Tarasov), Jill Goodrich (Officer Randy Osteen), Joe Lewis (Officer James Bailey), Shelley Rochester (Lady Boyle), Greg Garcia (Luther Flynn), Neal Cohen (Kevin Magee), and Joel Beaven (Kiril Ivakin).

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Silver Spring Stage’s production of Superior Donuts runs weekends through March 15 (Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., plus Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. on November 10th. Regular ticket price is $20, but $10 tickets are available for select performances on Goldstar. The Stage is located in the Woodmoor Shopping Center -10145 Colesville Road, in Silver Spring, MD. Purchase your tickets online.