In a small doughnut shop in Uptown Chicago, two unlikely friends form a bond and find out not only what sets them apart, but more importantly, what they have in common.
The comedy-drama Superior Donuts at Circle Theatre centers on an old Polish shop owner named Arthur Przybyszewski and a young African-American man, Franco Wicks, who becomes the shop’s new assistant despite sharing a pretty different perspective on life and business.
“It’s a story about friendship,” said director Mike Hull. “The two end up becoming friends and changing each others’ lives for the better.”
However, there are a lot of opposing ideas that come between the two men before they see eye to eye.
“It’s the idea of youthful optimism and aged cynicism,” Hull said. “There’s the idea of the American Dream, and really every one of the characters in the show has their own way of living it.”
Hull said the play allows the audience members to reflect on their own experience living in America.
“There’s this chance, that if we work together, not ignoring our past but recognizing the values and the lessons we’ve learned from it, that we can help to shape a better America,” he said.
Hull said he has had his own unique experience with the American Dream, so he sees this play as an “interesting and exciting challenge.”
“I personally have had a very privileged experience of the American Dream,” he said. “I’m a white guy living in the U.S. I’ve pretty much had everything handed to me when it comes to society’s input on my life. And I’ve also managed to see the other side of that as well, and see people who haven’t been given the opportunities to take the steps that to me seem small, because they’ve always been placed in front of me.
“A big passion of mine is the idea of recognizing my own privilege and helping to express stories for people who have different chances, or starting places in life.”
As the show moves along, the audience will notice the colors change from plain to more vibrant, a symbolic bit of set design that coincides with the story as the shop is filled with life. He intentionally wanted the set design to be more minimal, because it’s more realistic.
“What makes this piece so compelling is that these are people who could be ordinary people,” Hull said. “They don’t have crazy superhero backstories, they’re just normal, everyday people and that’s kind of the beauty of it.”
Todd Lewis plays the role of Arthur — opposite Nio Walton as Franco — and he said on the surface, the two main characters couldn’t seem more different.
“(Arthur) is very quiet and introspective and doesn’t share a lot,” Lewis said. “And the character of Franco is very outgoing and energetic, very boisterous and charismatic.”
As the two work through their own personal struggles but also work on their relationship together, Lewis said the theme of persistence runs throughout the show.
“Never giving up, never surrendering when you believe in something,” he said. “I think it’s really an important point all the time, but it seems even extra poignant right now in our political climate.”
Hull said he wants the audience to feel hope for a better society after watching this play.
“(I hope they feel) there’s the opportunity through a lot of hard work and a lot of determination to change our country for the better and to make it a more inclusive, more caring, more egalitarian place,” he said.
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