Sometimes, the most courageous thing you can do is be hopeful. And hope is what can be found in Lyric Arts’ Superior Donuts.
Superior Donuts is set (surprise!) in a small donut shop. More pertinently, it’s set in Chicago’s uptown neighborhood 2009-2010. The shop is owned by Arthur Przybyszewski (Jeffery Goodson), whose parents bought the shop when they immigrated to the States after WWII. Arthur is quite content to let his shop languish, lately closed almost as often as it is open. Until, that is, he hires Franco Wicks (Malick Ceesay)—the young man who bursts into the store full of business ideas and compels, thanks to his self-starting nature and ceaseless talking, Arthur to take him on.
Arthur is, to put it mildly, cynical. An aging hippie (with the ponytail to prove it), he is haunted by the memories of his father, his actions during the Vietnam war, and the divorce he refuses to discuss. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Franco: exuberant, loquacious, and self-proclaimed author of the next Great American Novel. Naturally, the two butt heads, repeatedly, and the show follows the progression (and regressions) of their relationship as they navigate family ties, hold and break obligations, and reconcile ghosts of the past. Audiences find that maybe Arthur isn’t quite the lost case he first appears to be, nor is Franco as carefree as he presents.
Just like the “Great American Novel,” Superior Donuts is a story of our time. It’s amazing how many subjects the script touches on, but the story does not feel overloaded. It feels real. It’s a portrait of American in the here and now. No matter your age, you can relate to the characters in some way. You may not be first generation Polish or African American, a shop owner or a poet, but Arthur and Franco take you along with them, make you cheer for them, make you hold your breath when things don’t go as planned.
The show is heavy. But it’s funny, too. Audiences will laugh just as often as groan over what the characters are doing. Goodson, Ceesay, and the rest of the cast do a wonderful job navigating the script’s rapid moves from humor and openness to solemn despondency. With a story that requires honesty and humanity, they deliver.
Despite the difficulties faced by the characters, this is a story of hope at heart. The friendship that grows between Arthur and Franco is enough to give even the staunchest cynics a dose of optimism and a smile. These characters show that, maybe more than anything, it takes hope to make your way in the world. And hope is what the characters—and the audience–are left with.
Book Your Tickets:
420 E Main Street,
Anoka, MN 55303
Running time: about 3 hours with intermission
***For mature audiences. Simulated violence and strong language.