UIC drama prof brings ‘Donuts’ to Broadway

Yasen Peyankov on Broadway in "Superior Donuts"

Yasen Peyankov and James Vincent Meredith in the original Steppenwolf Theatre production of “Superior Donuts” in Chicago. Photo: Michael Brosilow

Yasen Peyankov, head of UIC’s acting program, makes his Broadway debut today in the Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s New York production of “Superior Donuts.”

Previews of the show begin this week, with the official opening Oct. 1 at the Music Box Theatre.

Peyankov originated his role as Max, the Russian immigrant owner of an electronics store in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, in the play’s sold-out world premiere last year at Steppenwolf.

“It is a great honor to originate this role on Broadway, as it was in Chicago,” Peyankov said.

“It is also a great responsibility, but I feel ready for the challenge.”

As Max, Peyankov habitually wanders into the doughnut shop to deliver politically incorrect rants about Uptown’s crime and blight.

At the same time, he lobbies to expand his store into the space owned by Arthur, the downtrodden doughnut merchant played by Michael McKean, perhaps best known as the star of the mock-rockumentary “This is Spinal Tap” and other films by actor/director Christopher Guest.

Max eventually shows a more noble side.

“The play is about friendships, embracing our differences, pursuing dreams; generally a love song for Chicago — Chicago-style, with bloodied noses,” Peyankov said.

“The role of Max is pivotal, as he is the one who contributes to the biggest change in the play.”

The play — described by the Chicago Tribune as “a challenge, a comfort and an insouciant pleasure” — was written by Steppenwolf ensemble member Tracy Letts, author of “August: Osage County,” which also went directly from Steppenwolf to Broadway and won a 2008 Pulitzer Prize and Tony award.

While Peyankov performs in New York, the UIC acting program will continue as always. Derek Sanders, founding artistic director of the Congo Square Theatre, is teaching one of Peyankov’s classes.

“I am still running the acting program from New York,” Peyankov said.

“I fly back to Chicago at least once a month to hold meetings, visit classes and meet with students and colleagues.”

Tickets for “Superior Donuts” can be purchased through Telecharge.com or by calling 212-239-6200.

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