Posts Tagged ‘T J Nelson’

You have to catch a Tracy Letts play when it comes along as they don’t come along that often. In fact, he’s only written five in twenty years (yes, Tracy’s a he), probably because he has another career as an actor, but three of the five have been made into films, which is an extraordinary hit rate. My introduction to him was Killer Joe at the Bush in 1995. We had to wait another thirteen years for August: Osage County at the NT and another six years for this, even though it was written a year after it.

It’s a more warm-hearted piece that either of the others. Polish American Arthur runs a seedy donut shop in a neighbourhood of Chicago. He’s an ageing hippie draft dodger with long grey hair and ponytail who’s lost his mojo since his wife left him, taking his daughter with her. He reluctantly employs a young black kid full of ideas for the business, they strike up an unlikely friendship and Franco becomes a sort of surrogate son, so much so that Arthur bales him out big-time when he gets into debt with some unsavoury characters, though not before they’ve done some serious damage.

Add to the cocktail neighbouring businessman Max the Russian, who wants to buy Arthur out, bag-lady Lady who often takes refuge (and a free donut and coffee) and local cops James and Randy, who is attracted to Arthur (yes, this Randy is a she) leading to a rather charming sub-plot which led to some ‘ah’s’ from the audience, and you have an authentic slice of life in a Chicago melting pot neighbourhood. The first half is a bit slow, it doesn’t quite sustain it’s 2h45m length, I’m not sure Arthur’s soliloquies’ (where he fills in the personal background) really work, but the second half is a cracker and the performances are all superb.

Mitchell Mullen positively inhabits the character of Arthur and has great chemistry with Jonathan Livingstone’s Franco, full of contrasting youthful enthusiasm. Sarah Ball and Alexander James Simon are very good indeed as the cops and Nick Cavaliere contributes a totally believable new immigrant in Max. Arthur’s fight with baddie Luther (David Partridge; another fine performance) is a touch implausible but well staged. The company is completed by excellent support from Amanda Walker as Lady, Tom Shepherd as Luther’s sidekick Kevin and TJ Nelson as Max’s almost mute nephew. It’s rare to see such faultless casting and director Ned Bennett is to be congratulated.

Catch it while you can!

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