Saturday, November 28, 2009

Leaving A Hole In My Heart

Leaving A Hole In My Heart

Regular readers will know that few plays in recent years have moved me quite the way Tracy Letts' Superior Donuts managed to grab and take hold of me. In fact, I've been a fan ever since first catching its initial mounting at Chicago's Steppenwolf a year ago last summer.

So it was with a heavy heart that I first reported via Twitter on Wednesday that the show would be closing on January 3.

Earlier, tickets had been selling through March 28, but in recent weeks, this particular show wasn't exactly selling like hot cakes. Over the last two reported weeks, Superior Donuts had been playing to less than 50% capacity. Like Brighton Beach Memoirs, this is one excellent show deserving of a much larger audience than it was able to attract.

While critics liked the show, many Broadway watchers say it suffered from not being the "must-see" even that playwright Letts' August: Osage County had been just two years ago. "They" also say that in a season where star turns seem to make the difference (including the arguably inferior one just across the street), Superior Donuts had simply been overlooked.

I maintain that with outstanding and memorable performances from a superb ensemble (Michael McKean, Jon Michael Hill, Kate Buddeke, James Vincent Meredith, Yasen Peyankov, Jane Alderman, Robert Maffia, Cliff Chamberlain and Michael Garvey), this remains the best play on Broadway. I love the show so much that I've already seen it twice on the Great White Way and had even planned to see it again in late January. So I was very saddened to learn that it would be closing.

If you haven't already had an opportunity to see it, do everything you can to get to the Music Box Theatre before Superior Donuts closes. You will thank me.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 28 November, 2009, Blogger Esther said...

I know, I feel so sad about Superior Donuts closing. The characters and the story really got to me. As a writer, I've always believed that the most interesting stories were "people stories." And the people at the heart of Superior Donuts are so interesting and absorbing. Of all the six shows I saw in New York last month, Michael McKean and Jon Michael Hill had better chemistry than any other pair on stage. I agree - see it while you can!

At 30 November, 2009, Blogger Brian Ferdman said...

I loved the first act, but I felt like it lost a lot of steam in the second. The stage combat was an embarrassing low for Broadway standards, and unfortunately, that really killed the climax of the play for me. I'm still shaking my head at how a professional production at the elite level could field fight choreography that is so poorly executed.

At 30 November, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...


I appreciate your comments. However, I would posit that the fight choreography was very well-suited to the characters.

In fact, in my earlier SOB Review, I noted:

you’ll no doubt hear more than you’ll want to know about the show’s pivotal fight scene. Mind you, the contenders are both well past their prime.

In one corner is the nearly sixty year old Arthur Przybyszewski (a breathtaking, brilliant Michael McKean), who has ducked from battles his entire life, whether dodging the Vietnam draft or his own late father who labeled him a coward because he went AWOL. There’s no reason to assume he’d even know how to throw a decent punch. Yet, the young, aspiring writer Franco Wicks (Jon Michael Hill in one of the most astonishing Broadway debuts I've ever seen) has not only helped bring the doughnut shop back to life, but he's also awakened Arthur's soul enough to rejoin the human race and, consequently, to finally take a stand.

In the other corner is Luther Flynn (the aptly named Robert Maffia), a middle-aged hood afflicted by a painful ulcer. As menacing as he'd like to be, he's almost as likely to ask for a drink of milk as he is to ask his minion to do his bidding. It’s no wonder he initially laughs off Arthur’s challenge to fight, perhaps thinking that if even one punch landed in his stomach, he’d be down for the count.

There’s an enormous ineptitude about this fight. It’s not at all in the way that it's staged, but very much in the gritty reality of what you’d expect from two such men. I posit that real fights don’t happen the way they do in movies. Genuine brawls look an awful lot like the clumsy one in Superior Donuts.

At 09 December, 2009, Blogger Brian Ferdman said...

Steve, I did read your review, and I understand your point about the characters and the choreography. I actually agree with you there, and my problems aren't with the choreography. I wasn't expecting to see Hamlet vs. Laertes.

However, I was expecting to see well executed choreography, and the execution of choreography in this production was shockingly amateurish. When one actor throws a punch and doesn't come within two feet of the actor recoiling in pain, it just looks awful. I can only suspend disbelief so much, especially during the climax of the play.


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