Tracy Letts's "Superior Donuts' at the Arden (4th review)

The secret ingredient is heart

Jennifer Barnhart as Officer Osteen: I felt invested in their fate.
Jennifer Barnhart as Officer Osteen: I felt invested in their fate.

Poignancy and profundity are the two words a member of the audience used to describe Superior Donuts during the cast discussion following the performance I attended. I would add: heart.

What distinguishes this play is its humanity. I cared about the characters, and that's all too rare in contemporary theater. After a matinee of Robin's Baitz's Other Desert Cities at Lincoln Center, the performance most discussed was that of the skilled surgeon who had prepared Stockard Channing for her role.

Although that private drama about rich socialites in Palm Springs was engaging, I didn't feel invested in their fate as I was in the destinies of Franco, the hopeful young African-American, and Arthur, the burnt-out proprietor of the Chicago donut shop. How they interact with each other, as well as those around them—Officer Osteen, Lady Boyle and Max, among others—makes a compelling human drama.

In the handsome program, director Ed Sobel writes that the play "reminds us that our neighbors, different though they may be, share something with us," wherever they may live. It's that connection that seems to be missing in so many otherwise interesting plays.

A gifted cast beautifully portrays the hopes and dreams of these people, the success and disappointment that they are heir to. Add to that the superior set, sound and lighting and you have a magical evening in the theater.
The characters continue to live on in my head as I ponder the play's final words: "America will be…."♦

To read another review by Marshall A. Ledger, click here.
To read another review by Steve Cohen, click here.
To read another review by Jackie Atkins, click here.

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Want previews of our latest stories about arts and culture in Philadelphia? Sign up for our newsletter.