TheatreWorks presents…
Tracy Letts

Every now and then, we are treated to a theatrical performance that is outstanding on every level. TheatreWorks has outdone its usual solid and professional productions with the staging of Tracy Letts story of a middle aged Viet Nam Vet who has closed the doors to his life. “I was curious about that generation of men, and how they were dealing with that damage now,” said Letts. “As that particular class of boomers leaves middle age and enters into their old age…’” and he continues ” ……the play’s about opening up to your fellow man, in a way that’s generous to the receiver and important to the giver.”

That is a lot to say in a couple of hours and it takes a very talented group of actors to get the points made here across without seeming maudlin or clichéd. Howard Swain is perfectly cast as Arthur, the soured and tired owner of the donut shop who has copped out of life. Arthur, said Swain “runs a little doughnut shop in uptown Chicago.…..he evades the draft, running away to Canada. When he comes back, he’s about 30. He’s missed his formative years. Like the doughnut shop, he’s kind of frozen in time, in 1968.”

The play opens in the little shop in December 2009. That is over thirty years that Arthur ahs been stuck in one place with one attitude and one vision. Lance Gardner as Franco breaks that pattern when he applies for a job in the shop. He is a complete contrast to his boss: he is what a person can become if he reaches for a dream. Franco is filled with hope and excitement about life’s potential despite the unending hardship and poverty he has faced for all his twenty one years. “I hope that the audience will re-discover the vibrancy and possibility of youth,” said Gardner. “As people age and fail to achieve what they once thought possible, they seem to forget that they still can, that there is always hope, and that to make a dream come true, you must awake and take action rather than sleep. They forget that if they don’t climb high enough to fall, they are nowhere.”

And that in a nutshell is what this show tells you. “The play is a box of assorted doughnuts – a vibrant comedy, a gritty coming-of-age drama, a wistful tale of lifelong regrets, a redemptive song of second chances,” says director Leslie Martinson. “Letts explores charged connections between storeowner and his daily customer, an employer and employee, the beat cops and the local merchants, a bookie and his client. Comfort and belonging might be right at hand, but so might shadows from your past.”

The exquisite acting is what sets this story apart from every saga of the disillusioned man getting a new lease on life from n upbeat, unrealistic youngster. The people on that stage are so real it is hard to believe they are acting. Joan Mankin is the homeless Lady, the street philosopher who sees, understands, accepts and survives it all. Michael J. Asberry is the perfect cop who does a lot more for the people on his beat than police work and Julia Brothers will charm you as the lady cop, Randy who is a romantic at heart.

Through all the stage business, all the machinations of the plot, there is Howard Swain and Lance Grander making every scene work not just on a dramatic level but on a deeper psychological reality: the forces that make these people human, and why each character on that stage is every one of us. It is their portrayal and Martinson’s amazingly sensitive direction that elevates this drama into a masterpiece.

“With Superior Donuts, whether you see it as a tale of a Vietnam era man, an encouragement to open oneself to life, the clash of two ways of seeing the world, or all of those things, it is a story full of character and heart,” says dramaturg Vickie Rozell.

This production of SUPERIOR DONUTS is one you will never forget. You will see yourself on that stage, you will remember the heartbreaks you thought would destroy you and realize that through it all there is always hope.

SUPERIOR DONUTS plays through October 31
Tuesdays& Wednesdays 7:30 pm
Thursdays & Fridays 8 pm
Saturdays 2 & 8 pm
Sundays 2 & 7 pm
WHERE: Mt. View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro Street
Mountain View
TICKETS: 650 463 1960