Atlanta Art Reviews by Susan K Asher
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‘Superior Donuts’ at Horizon Theatre

2011 March 4

Eric J. Little and Chris Kayser

If there’s anything superior about Horizon Theatre’s newest production “Superior Donuts,”  it is Eric J. Little who steals the show as the educated, jive-talking Franco Wicks.

It’s Arthur’s donut shop, Franco’s neighborhood and they’re both in trouble.

Arthur’s donut shop has been in a low-income neighborhood in Boston since his father opened it nearly five decades ago. Superior Donuts has just been burglarized when Russian immigrant Max Tarasov (Bart Hansard) rushes in telling the two officers investigating the crime that he’s sure the culprits are those young black children who were running by. When the laid-back Arthur (Chris Kayser) arrives at the shop and everyone leaves, he locks the doors, shutters the windows and smokes a  joint.

Franco is a young black man who’s looking for work so he can go back to college. Although Arthur is in no mood to hire anyone, the winsome student has laid out a stellar marketing plan for the shop to explode with customers. Within three minutes he’s hired.

“Superior Donuts” mixes drama with comedy and kept my attention nearly the entire time. It is smartly written, but there are a couple of rocky spots. I didn’t grasp the significance all of Arthur’s monologues, especially the information about his daughter, and I thought the ending was weak. If Arthur were serious about writing a book, it seems like he’d have learned his lesson and written it on a computer.

With all that said, the playwright, Tracy Letts is more than a mediocre playwright. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and  a Tony Award for Best Play in 2008 for “August: Osage County.”  His earlier play “Man from Nebraska” also was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

What really made this show for me was the acting by Eric J. Little, who performs with such zeal and true-to-life (not forced) animation, he kept me captivated.

No less outstanding in their performances were Bart Hansard and Nita Hardy as the homeless Lady Boyle. If anyone could make you believe it is freezing cold outside and that it takes someone a while to warm up when the temperature is below freezing, it is Hardy.

I couldn’t care less about scenery, but for being one of the smallest theaters around town, Horizon does an excellent job of creating a life-like set. Yep, that’s a tiny donut shop that has been there for years and hasn’t grown with the times. I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone to have done better than sister scenic designers Moriah Curley-Clay and Isabel Curley-Clay.

Directed by Jeff Adler, the cast includes Bryan Brendle, Lala Cochran, Neal Hazard, Alan Heckner, and Sean Michael Moreno.

“Superior Donuts” runs  through March 27 at Horizon Theatre.

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