by Tracy Letts.
Southwark Playhouse (The Little) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 8 March 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 February.
A little world, presented with control yet building to a strong personality.
Some dramatists patiently involve you in their world as seemingly small details about characters ultimately lead to situations which seem inevitable. Time’s suspended, and until the playwright has finished, you simply want to know more.
So with Tracy Letts’ Chicago story. Superior Donuts is the small, untidy (and recently-vandalised) coffee-bar run by hippy-turned-60 Arthur, whose neighbour Max wants to buy it to attach to his adjoining business.
This could make them rivals, but there’s a solidarity of those on the social margins against anyone who tries exploiting them. WASPish this place is not; it’s a melting-pot area of ethnicities and colours. Justice, when needed, is sorted locally.
Whether from guilt for not fighting America’s wars when young, Arthur insists on physical combat with the small-time crooks who’ve attacked his one staff-member, Franco, and destroyed his hand-written manuscript which might just – it depends how we judge Arthur as a literary critic – have been the next Great American Novel.
The plot – and for a long time there hardly seems to be one, simply incidents in the lives of people who get along and would occasionally like to get closer – is not too far removed from a noir neighbourhood.
What matters is the individual people; which is why Arthur’s shop isn’t boastfully named. He’s serving food he believes in, unlike the chain operation that’s moving in, making a killing and killing his business off.
There are questions of dramatic likelihood, and convenient coincidence when it comes to the big showdown. But they scarcely matter. Letts creates a small world where what happens is real because it arises from the hearts of people in a part of society rationality doesn’t rule.
Nor do some rough edges to a few performances much matter. They’re like small faults in a friend, for the experience overall opens-up a world of people that fully grips. In particular, Sarah Ball’s lonely police officer, Jonathan Livingstone’s likeable coffee-shop assistant finding his way around adult society, and, supremely, Mitchell Mullen’s Arthur – a performance as immaculate as his appearance is not – hold the attention in Ned Bennett’s admirable production.
Max Tarasov: Nick Cavaliere.
Officer Randy Osteen: Sarah Ball.
Officer James Bailey: Alexander James Simon.
Lady Boyle: Amanda Walker.
Arthur Przybyszewski: Mitchell Mullen.
Franco Wicks: Jonathan Livingstone.
Luther Flynn: David Partridge.
Kevin Magee: Tom Shepherd.
Kiril Ivakin: T J Nelson.
Director: Ned Bennett.
Designer: Fly Davis.
Lighting: Marec Joyce.
Sound: Giles Thomas.
Composer: Theo Viogen.
Dialecr coaxh: Mary Howland.
Costume: Jessica Knight.
Fight director: Owain Gwynn.
Assistant director: Gus Miller.