Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Heartland Announces Cast for Upcoming "Superior Donuts"

Tracy Letts' award-winning "Superior Donuts" is coming to Heartland Theatre in April, with Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson, associate professor at University of Illinois-Springfield, directing a cast that includes Michael Pullin, Gregory D. Hicks, Todd Wineburner, Clark Abraham, Cathy Sutliff, Marcus Smith, Holly Klass, Aric Rattan and Jay Hartzler.

The poster from Steppenwolf's "Superior Donuts"
"Superior Donuts" is a Chicago play, Letts' first set in his adopted hometown, and it premiered at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, with Michael McKean (the Lenny half of Lenny and Squiggy from "Laverne and Shirley" and then immortalized as David St. Hubbins in "This Is Spinal Tap") and Jon Michael Hill (who stepped straight from the theater department at U of I to the Steppenwolf ensemble) in the lead roles. McKean played Arthur Przybyszewski, the owner of a neglected doughnut store in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood, while Hill created the role of Franco Wicks, a smart kid who talks his way into a job at Arthur's store. Franco has dreams of becoming the next great American poet, but he's got some bad decisions and bad connections from the past that are standing in the way. Both Arthur and Franco need to overcome the past in order to have a future, whether that future involves doughnuts or not.

The play's themes of personal growth, connection and redemption are universal, and they fit nicely within Heartland's missions "to explore the human condition through the art of theatre" and to call "attention to the experience of being human and the shared pain, joy, sorrow and celebration that it entails." There is pain, joy, sorrow and yes, even a celebration in "Superior Donuts."

For Heartland, Michael Pullin, just seen as Sterling, the ruthless stamp collector, in "Mauritius," will play Arthur, while Gregory D. Hicks, who has recently performed in "The Women of Lockerbie" at ISU and "The Mystical Willie Lynch" with ISU's Black Actors Guild, will take on the role of Franco.

Todd Wineburner, who last appeared at Heartland in Deborah Zoe Laufer's "Sirens" in November, is slated to play Max Tarasov, the friendly (and ambitious) Russian down the street, with Clark Abraham, seen in Joel Drake Johnson's "The End of the Tour" last spring, as Luther, the loan shark who has no compunctions about keeping his minions in line, with whatever means necessary.

Cathy Sutliff and Marcus Smith will play the pair of cops who hang out at Arthur's shop, often running into another patron, a lady who goes by the name of Lady, played by Holly Klass. Rounding out the cast are Aric Rattan and Jay Hartzler, playing Luther's henchman and Max's nephew respectively.

"Superior Donuts" opens at Heartland on April 12, with performances through April 29. No word yet on whether they will be offering doughnuts at intermission, but we can hope!

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