Sean Philippe and Allan Whitehead in SUPERIOR DONUTS. Photo by Monica Mulder Photography
By PAM HARBAUGH
Four actors (Nelia Lake, Zack Roundy, Allan Whitehead and Cecilia Gazzara) plus a director (yours truly), have been hoofing it from Brevard and Vero Beach to Orlando for rehearsals and now the run of “Superior Donuts” at the 30-seat Theater on the Edge.
And we have been loving it and discovering the Tracy Letts’ play is much more than a comedy.
I thought that after Theater on the Edge opened its debut season with some theatrical grit like “American Buffalo” and then took a wild ride with “Tape,” we’d take a breather and produce a fun comedy with heart…sort of along the lines of a “Very Special Blossom.”At least, that’s what I thought “Superior Donuts” was going to be – a sweet dessert to end the season.
And it has been that. However, working again with this meticulous team, from designers to cast to crew, I found myself biting into something much meatier than expected.
Of course, context and timing are everything. So, perhaps it’s the current social and political climate that stirs more resonance into Tracy Letts’ play.
For indeed, “Superior Donuts” is about America:
The old hippie son of Polish immigrant parents, Arthur (Allan Whitehead) is our Everyman whose fears hold him hostage. We want him to find the courage to open up to others and to find the determination to resist what is wrong.Franco (Sean Philippe) is the talented but marginalized young African American man with big aspirations. He quotes Langston Hughes: “America never was America to me/And yet I swear this oath–/America will be!”
Randy (Cecilia Gazzara) is the cop who loves her Irish family but wants her own identity. Max (Robb Maus) is the Russian immigrant who loves America and lives its dream and is helping his nephew, Kiril (Anthony Belevtsov) adopt his new country. Lady (Nelia Lake) is the homeless old soul dispensing words of wisdom for a little sweetness to her day.
Then there is James (Mark Anthony Kelly) the African American cop who loves Star Trek; and the tough Irish guys, Luther and Kevin (Marco DiGeorge and Zack Roundy).
And there is the passing of the baton. The donut shop can’t hold still. America can’t hold still. Like Franco says, “never stop movin’.” So we infuse that into the music – remixes of old hippie stuff with hip hop and rap. Which turns out pretty cool.
But the sweet stuff is that there is room for change, for growth, for pushing out the edges. Even for Arthur. Even for America.
SUPERIOR DONUTS runs through July 2 at Theater on the Edge, 5542 Hansel Ave., Orlando. $19 to $24. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit TheaterOnTheEdge.org.