Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Superior Donuts needs a boost

I'm worried about Superior Donuts.

Yes, I know tickets are on sale through March but last week it played to 49 percent capacity at the 991-seat Music Box Theatre, the lowest of any Broadway show. And it's down 12 percent from the previous week. The average ticket price was $66.35.

Needless to say those numbers don't inspire confidence, which is a shame.

Of the six shows I saw on my last trip to New York, this play about a rundown little donut shop in a changing Chicago neighborhood is the one that moved me the most. Superior Donuts has heart and humor and it deserves a much bigger audience. (Discounted tickets are available at Playbill and Broadway Box.)

I hope the poster isn't tripping people up. One woman I talked to said she wasn't sure at first whether it was a play or an advertisement for an actual donut shop! Also, I've never been able to get the video on the show's Web site to play properly. But maybe that's just my computer.

Anyway, I thought that Michael McKean as shop owner Arthur Przybyszewski and Jon Michael Hill as Franco Wicks, the young man who comes to work for him, had better chemistry than any other pair I saw on stage. That includes Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig in A Steady Rain.

I had a brief conversation with McKean as he walked up 45th Street after the show, and one thing he mentioned was how playwright Tracy Letts creates such memorable characters. I definitely agree.

(When I saw This is Spinal Tap at a movie theater in Hartford, Connecticut in 1984, I never imagined that 25 years later I'd be walking up 45th Street in New York City with McKean after seeing him on Broadway!)

The New York Times has story today about Hill, the 24-year-old who's simply amazing in his Broadway debut. He and director Tina Landau both talk about how hard they worked to strike a balance with his character so that Franco wouldn't come across as too jokey.

“Arthur is a man who has given up on hope," Landau said, "while Franco is built around the idea of a better America yet to come. For me it was key to get those two almost primordial forces opposing each other.”

Coincidentally, last night someone left a comment on my review of Superior Donuts and it pretty much sums up how I feel, too:

"After seeing August: Osage County last season and Superior Donuts yesterday afternoon, I'm telling everybody that it was our favorite this trip. The Absolute-Must-See Play. No gimmicks or tricks. Just amazing writing and acting that truly exhausted us. This is what theater is supposed to be. An experience you can't get at the movies, etc. We would love to see it again as well."

Update: Sadly, Superior Donuts will close on Jan. 3. But you've still got another month to see it.


Anonymous said...

i have to say, i'm not that surprised...the play felt very unfinished to me...while i definitely thought it had potential, ultimately, it felt unfulfilling to me

Esther said...

Thanks for the comment! Guess I did enjoy Superior Donuts more but that's what makes for an interesting discussion!