photo: Robert J. Saferstein
From the moment that young, vital Franco (Jon Michael Hill) comes bounding in with hope and promise to the crumbling donut shop where Arthur (Michael McKean) has withdrawn into a fog, we know what's going to happen; it isn't the plot of Tracy Letts' latest play (which has followed his August: Osage County into The Music Box Theatre) that grabs the attention and holds it. The joy is in Lett's textured writing; it's in the humor he finds in his affection and compassion for his characters and the Chicago/America they inhabit. A compassionate drama with plenty of crowd-pleasing comedy, the play sounds notes of renewed hopefulness that seem right-on-time in this Obama age, and the unified ensemble put them over beautifully. At the center are the two extraordinary performances by McKean and newcomer Hill: their rapport helps to make the relationship between discouraged, world-weary middle-aged man and young, bright dreamer just about impossible to resist.