Produced by: The Pear Avenue Theatre
Directed by: Ann Kuchins
Featuring: Featuring Ray Renati as Arthur, Brandon Jackson as Franco, and Doug Brook, Christopher Carter, Alonzo Cook, Stephanie Crowley, Durand Garcia, Chase Kinsey and Patricia Tyler
When: Preview 8 p.m. June 27; runs June 28-July 14, 2013. 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. 2 p.m. No performance July 4; added performance July 3, 2013
Where: Pear Avenue Theatre, 1220 Pear Ave., Mountain View, California
Tickets: $10-$30 (discounts for seniors, students, and groups). Call 650-254-1148 or visit www.thepear.org.
are both brilliant in Tracy Letts' moving play
Tracy Letts' moving and funny play, "Superior Donuts," is a fine fit in Mountain View's ambitious little black box Pear Avenue Theatre. The joint only seats, I think, 40 people, so everybody sits there in Arthur Przybyszewski's little donut shop, waiting for somebody to bring them coffee and donuts.
When Arthur, an aging, defeated hippie, delivers one of his several little speeches explaining his life evading the draft, not resisting it, being out of the country when his father died, the last word his father said to him it's like we are all there, sitting at one of the little round tables with him.
Arthur's been living in a haze of marijuana smoke and emotional impotence for so long that he doesn't know what to do when somebody breaks into his shop, when a lady cop comes on to him, when a brash young black man talks him into hiring him.
But that young black man is the spark that engages Arthur's motor of life once again, and therein Letts tells his beautiful story.
This production has an amazing Arthur, performed by Ray Renati, and an excellent Franco Wicks, performed by Brandon Jackson.
Renati is fabulous as Arthur, who seldom knows what to say because he's not sure what he should be feeling about much of anything. He knows all about his failures in life, and he carries his sadness like a cloak around his shoulders.
Renati's every syllable of his delivery of Arthur's dialogue is a creative act of beauty.
And Jackson matches him in theatrical strength, bringing the hustling Franco, the never-stop-moving Franco, to life with gusto and truth.
Those two performances are what theater is all about, at its best. The ache Arthur feels in his heart is there in every hesitation, in every moment of intelligent self-doubt. The freezing cold of a Chicago winter enters the room with Franco, and when his heart is broken, so are ours.
Go see these guys.
Around those two there are a few very good performances, and two or three lesser performances. Stephanie Crowley, as the lady cop who likes Arthur has an impressive head of red hair and seems to be able to blush on cue. She carries the role very nicely. We like her. Christopher Carter was excellent and empathetic as the other cop, the Trekker, with the exception of stuttering on a line or two. Doug Brook was excellent as Max Tarasov, and carries his part with skill and color.
Patricia Tyler is very likable, very moving, as Lady Boyle, the bag lady who gets free donuts and offers up some wisdom to Arthur when he needs it.
Durand Garcia as Luther was excellent in the fight scene he should be, since he actually teaches stage combat but he just doesn't exude the weasel-like meanness of a true street thug. Alonzo Cook looks big and strong as Luther's enforcer, but is about as scary as a teddy bear. Chase Kinsey brought little besides a very well-built body to the role of Max' nephew, but that's OK.
Director Ann Kuchins did a fine job overall, with the exception of the blocking for the fight scene -- the placement of the two enforcers just didn't make any sense at all. But overall, she brought the play to real life in front of a very close audience.
Ron Gasparinetti's scenic design is fabulous. The little Superior Donuts shop made real in front of us. The painted-on tile floor in green and cream, the little round tables, the donut case, it was all completely familiar.
Lighting design by Valerie Clear was mostly effective, although maybe some contacts need cleaning or something, because there was definitely some crackling going on with some of the lighting changes. Sound design by Gordon and Jeanie Smith was charming, bringing the sounds of the city in just enough -- when not overwhelmed by the sound of the The Pear's air-conditioning system. But the AC seemed to quit sometime in the second act anyway, which was very much a mixed blessing, during a heat wave. Yes, we could hear a little better, but it got a bit too warm in there.
Hats off to The Pear. A fine bit of artistry in its tiny space.