Coffee, doughnuts, life
Sacramento, CA 95816
When passersby pass by Capital Stage’s new home at 2215 J Street, the first thing they will see is an elegant metalwork sign displaying the theater’s name. The new interior is covered in beautiful archival shots of past shows and pays due homage to the previous six seasons of plays Capital Stage has produced. The first show of their seventh season, Tracy Letts’ Superior Donuts, is certainly worthy of adding to that collection of highlights.
Directed by Stephanie Gularte, the synced cast and charming script create a charged production that never disappoints.
Superior Donuts centers on the rocky-at-first relationship of small doughnut-shop owner Arthur Przybyszewski (Matt K. Miller), a descendant of Polish immigrants, and the spunky, urban dreamer Franco Wicks (Jammy K. Bulaya), as they work together to sell Arthur’s lackluster doughnuts and discuss black poets and the “Great American Novel.”
It takes place in the very recent past, and the issues are all quite current. With its lines about überpowerful banks and real-estate slumps, it—perhaps coincidentally—leads us to ponder the current climate and the activities of the Occupy Wall Street movement throughout the country.
The characters make the play light and breezy, but the amazing prowess of each brings weight and substance to the play. This production uses the script to make life blossom inside the new black box theater, and the intimate environment lets the audience latch onto each character and easily feel real empathy.
Miller’s textured performance as the burned-out Arthur immediately puts the audience on his side; we want him to win. His character constantly reminisces on the nature of cowardice, not unlike a slightly ‘hippiefied’ version of Falstaff.
Bulaya knocks his part out of the park, and brings an adaptive and instantly likeable Franco to the table, a young black man who has an optimistic—and often naive—outlook on life. The supporting cast also brings out the nuance of the text, most notably the riotous Max Tarasov (Gary Pannullo) and the profound and homeless Lady Boyle (Janis Stevens).
Founding member and technical director Jonathon Williams’ set presents the coffee and doughnut shop as a sad, defeated place, and feels like what it’s meant to represent: Arthur’s past. The simple minutia that takes place onstage tricks the audience into accepting the play with little demand for ‘suspension of disbelief.’
Making the transition from the previous locale’s proscenium stage to the new thrust stage is not only a welcome change but also a seamless one. As multiple people were overheard saying throughout the night, there wasn’t a bad seat in the house.
With a production like this one, that’s a very good thing, indeed.