Two years ago, actor turned playwright Tracy Letts won both the Pulitzer Prize and the top Tony Award for his first Broadway production -- the epic family drama "August: Osage County." Last night he returned to the rialto with "Superior Donuts." The slice-of-life comedy won over the critics, and with few original works scheduled for Broadway this season, "Superior Donuts" could well be on the menu at the Tony Awards next June.
Writing for the New York Times, Charles Isherwood said," 'Superior Donuts,' a gentle comedy that unfolds like an extended episode of a 1970s sitcom, is a warm bath of a play that will leave Broadway audiences with satisfied smiles rather than rattled nerves." And Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News said, "the comedy-drama crosses the urban eatery setting of August Wilson's 'Two Trains Running' with the snappy banter of the 1970s sitcom 'Chico and the Man.' What makes the play fresh is Letts. He creates vivid characters and always has surprises up his sleeve."
For Elysa Gardner of USA Today, "Director Tina Landau ensures that the players serve both Letts' sharp wit and his unexpected tenderness. Neither Michael McKean's forlorn, palpably decent Arthur nor Jon Michael Hill's dynamic Franco could be more credible. Typically, Letts doesn't provide a tidy happy ending, but he doesn't conclude on a low note, either. In its amiable spirit and capacity for hope, 'Donuts' may be, in its unassuming way, as daring a move as he has made."
Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post thought, "'Superior Donuts' isn't an ode to how great things used to be. Instead, the characters both stay true to themselves and realize they need to evolve. There's a thin line between sentiment and sentimentality, but Letts always stays on the right side. He also gets a deluxe production from director Tina Landau (whose work keeps getting better and better) and a cast in a state of grace."
And Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal said, "Letts takes scrupulous care to balance laughter and sorrow in exactly the right proportions. The result is a heartfelt piece of dead-serious entertainment that holds your attention all the way from the first punchline to the last blackout."
Photo: Jon Michael Hill and Michael McKean. Credit: Robert J. Saferstein / Associated Press