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Book Report: Superior Donuts

Your Humble Blogger was, a few months ago, flipping through one of those books offering advice on one’s putative professional stage acting career, or perhaps it was just on preparing audition monologues. I don’t remember. I occasionally flip through those books as they cross the circulation desk, and I suppose I glean bits from each, but without taking any bits of any of them very seriously. Actually, the best bit I read recently was from a book on stage management and other technical stuff, in which the author advised potential stage managers, ASMs, prop and costume masters and mistresses and other reasonable, rational hard-working crew not to think of actors as intrinsically stupid, but to think of them as perpetually having a lot on their minds. Not, it was hastily made clear, that such thinking was more likely to be accurate, but that it might cut down on the amount of bile in the lives of the crew. This is a piece of advice I have found widely applicable: whenever possible, attribute obvious stupidity (on the part of others, naturally) to everyone being excessively busy, and commiserate rather than rant.

Well, in theory it’s a good idea.

Anyway, one or another of those books decreed than anyone who wanted to regularly work as a stage actor should be reading at least two plays a week. It might have been three, actually, but whatever it was, it seemed absurdly high the moment I read it, and then after a while I thought to myself hmmm (not even addressing myself by name, because we’re that close) it really doesn’t take long to read a play, does it? The point of the advice, I would think, is not to be choosy in reading plays, but to just keep reading them, that familiarity with a lot of plays, good and bad and clever and formulaic and successful and that other thing, helps an actor prepare for any specific play. And while of course there is limited time for play-reading as there is for anything else, reading a play is a good use of that limited time (even if, as in my case, my interest in acting is only amateur). So if a playscript comes across the circulation desk and it looks remotely interesting, rather than spending time looking through it to decide if I think it’s worth reading or not, I try to just read the thing.

Which is not to say that I wouldn’t have read Superior Donuts anyway, and in fact I’m not absolutely sure I read that two-a-week advice before reading this play. Tracy Letts had a monster hit with August: Osage County, and this was his follow-up play. I had read the reviews and found them intriguing. And, most important, there’s a part for me. Actually it turns out there are two parts for me: the aging pothead owner of the store and the raving Russian Mafioso neighbor. The neighbor is the good part, the supporting role that has some actual tension. The lead is an interesting challenge, as the actor would have to portray an even-tempered hazy drop-out with enough energy and intensity to keep the audience awake without betraying the character’s traits. On the other hand, it’s not a challenge with a lot of reward.

The play is dull on the page. I imagine that given the right actors it could spark to life, but there wasn’t anything in the script that made me itch to see (or produce) this rather than any other play.

The good news, though, is that there are plenty of other plays.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,