If you looked just at the dramatis personae in Tracy Letts' Superior Donuts, which premieres tonight at Custom Made Theatre Company, you might think it easy to peg. Arthur (Don Wood) is a draft-dodging hippie who hasn't altered his Uptown, Chicago donut shop in 40 years. Franco (Chris Marsol) is his newly hired assistant who's young, black, and deeply optimistic about change. But don't think you can simply see the generational, cultural, and racial conflicts unfolding, warns director Marilyn Langbehn.
Letts, who is also a celebrated actor and Pulitzer Prize-winner, reveals much just in the way characters "go at it trying to see who knows the black poets" the best, says Langbehn. Even more importantly, Superior Donuts puts forth a modern notion of family. "There's the family you're born into," says Langbehn, "and then the family that becomes yours by virtue of circumstance or because you actively surround yourself with them." This play is very much concerned with the latter; all characters are united by a certain donut shop and by Letts' ability, as Langbehn puts it, "to get underneath the masks of how we live our daily lives."