Friday, November 20, 2009

Theatre Review: Superior Diner – Steppenwolf Does it Again

by Eric Green

Theatre Review: Superior Donuts

Chicago's Steppenwolf's "Superior Donuts" Does It Great On New York's Broadway

Tracy Letts the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award Winning Playwright for "August: Osage County" has done it again. This time it is a smaller story that brings together Russians, Polish, African Americans and a few others in an outdated, but highly relevant diner in Chicago, Illinois. The play expertly directed by Tina Landau, another Steppenwolf stalwart is quick, timely and right on the political mark on a number of issues.

The lead actor, Michael McKean is not a Steppenwolf ensemble actor, but he leads the cast though its ups and downs. And, Jon Michael Hill, who plays the African American young student, does an amazing job of keeping the play on track through some difficult messages. He is a Steppenwolf actor since 2007.

McKean is the center of the play as he takes us through the life of Arthur Przybyszewski the son of a pro war father who called his son a coward for leaving the U.S. for Canada to avoid the Vietnam War draft. After returning to the U.S. via the amnesty by President Jimmy Carter he inherits his fathers donut shop.

His friendship with Hill and encounters with other characters is done very smoothly, but with the artistic tension that this plays keeps throughout.

The genius of Letts is to bring together people with their highly charged "issues" on the stage for less than 2 hours; and, achieve a real theatrical experience. But, like "Osage County," Letts, on a far more limited scale, accomplishes the technical achievements of great playwriting and making a statement that is worth saying.

This is a play that can translate well to productions in small venues and university campuses. Thank you Steppenwolf, again, for a a great production and ensemble of writers, directors and actors.