Tracy Letts' Superior Donuts, With McKean and Hill, Opens on Broadway

By Kenneth Jones
October 1, 2009

Michael McKean plays the stuck proprietor of a Chicago doughnut shop who is shaken loose with the arrival of a brash new employee in Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts' Superior Donuts, opening at Broadway's Music Box Oct. 1.

Haunted by loss and mindful of the consequences of his long-ago escape from the Vietnam draft, deadened sixtysomething Arthur Przybyszewski (McKean) toils away, making good doughnuts at the shabby Uptown shop that his late Polish father once ran. Enter Franco (played by Jon Michael Hill), a 21-year-old kid with dreams to spare: he wants to make some money, satisfy a financial debt, improve the shop and generally be heard.

Arthur, the focus of this intimate, seriocomic character study about family, is reluctant to change. "It's like he's locked himself inside a cryogenic chamber walled himself off from the rest of the world," McKean, a Broadway veteran of Hairspray, The Pajama Game and The Homecoming, told Playbill magazine.

Superior Donuts Letts' first play produced since Tony and Pulitzer winner August: Osage County began previews on Broadway Sept. 16, following its 2008 world premiere by Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.

The Superior Donuts cast includes Steppenwolf ensemble members Hill as Franco, Yasen Peyankov (as the Russian appliance dealer next door) and James Vincent Meredith (as a local beat cop) with Jane Alderman (a well-known casting director in the Windy City, here playing the neighborhood's wise-crazy alcoholic), Kate Buddeke (Broadway's Gypsy with Bernadette Peters) as a cop who takes a shine to Arthur, Cliff Chamberlain (as a thug), Michael Garvey (as a surprise visitor) and Robert Maffia (as a loan shark).

Letts (whose other plays include Killer Joe and Bug) and director Tina Landau (who puts McKean in a white-hot spotlight for interior monologues not heard by others in his world) are both ensemble members of Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

Landau (Broadway's Bells Are Ringing, Off-Broadway's Space and Dream True) also directed in 2008. The entire Steppenwolf cast moved to Broadway, to the same venue where Letts' August ran.

The understudies are Marilyn Dodds Frank, Stephen Payne, Sean Patrick Reilly, Michael Rossmy and Samuel Stricklen.

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Letts has revised and refined his new play since its premiere. The small-scale workplace play was nominated for the Joseph Jefferson Award for its premiere run at Steppenwolf's Downstairs Theatre, the same venue where eventual Tony winner August was born in 2007.

In the new play, according to the producers, "Arthur Przybyszewski owns a decrepit donut shop in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. Franco Wicks, a black teenager who is his only employee, wants to change the shop for the better. This provocative comedy, set in the heart of one of Chicago's most diverse communities, explores the challenges of embracing the past and the redemptive power of friendship."

McKean was most recently on Broadway in the 2007 revival of The Homecoming. He is also widely known for his film and TV work, notably in "Laverne & Shirley," "This Is Spinal Tap," "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind."

The production team includes scenic designer James Schuette, costume designer Ana Kuzmanic, lighting designer Christopher Akerlind and sound designers Rob Milburn & Michael Bodeen. Production stage manager is Arthur Gaffin. Rick Sordelet is the fight director. Hair and wig design are by Charles LaPointe.

The Steppenwolf production of Superior Donuts is produced on Broadway by Jeffrey Richards, Jean Doumanian, Jerry Frankel, Awaken Entertainment, Debra Black, Chase Mishkin, Karmichelle Productions/Robert G. Bartner, Carole & Barry Kaye/Irv Welzer, Andrew Asnes, Rebecca Gold, Kathleen K. Johnson, George Kaufman, Charlie McAteer, Terry Schnuck, Michael Gardner/David Jaroslowicz, Roy Gottlieb/Raise The Roof Two, Dena Hammerstein/Pam Pariseau, and Stewart F. Lane/Bonnie Comley.

The Music Theatre is located at 239 W. 45th Street. Superior Donuts will play Tuesday at 7 PM, Wednesday-Saturday at 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, and Sunday at 3 PM. Tickets for Superior Donuts are on sale through Telecharge.com or by calling (212) 239-6200.