In real life, odd couples can be tiresome with their bickering and bellyaching, but in the theater they're usually a source of comic bliss.
At least that's what the actors at the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea are hoping for in the company's upcoming production of Superior Doughnuts.
The show is set in urban Chicago and follows Arthur Przybyszewski, an aging '60s radical who has just about given up on everything: a social life, the chance of romance, and most of all, his family’s dilapidated donut shop. But when youthful dreamer Franco Wicks walks through the door with plans to reinvent the vandalized storefront, Arthur realizes that life still has more to offer him.
"This is just a great story with great characters," director Guy Sanville said. "We like to do shows about people that offer a window into the human heart, and I thought if we could get the right guy to play Arthur and the right guy to play Franco, then why not?"
Randolph Mantooth leads the show's seven-member ensemble as Arthur. The actor, who is best known for his role as Johnny Gage on NBC's "Emergency!" during the 1970s, makes his debut at the Purple Rose at the urging of Sanville. The two worked together when Sanville directed the New York Signature Theatre's Off Broadway production of Lanford Wilson's Rain Dance in 2003.
"I'm thrilled to be working with Randy again. He's a great actor. We've been looking for something to do together for awhile. A lot of his work has been in film and television, but he has just a terrific stage presence," Sanville said.
Mantooth was last seen on the hit show "Sons of Anarchy" in 2011 and said he is excited to be returning to the stage.
"Theater is great because you don't have to wait for reviews. You know instantly whether you were good or not just based on the audience's reaction," he said.
Though he admits that performing for a live audience for the first time in years can be daunting, Mantooth has been impressed with the professionalism of the Purple Rose, his costars and especially Sanville.
"It takes a lot of courage to reveal yourself on stage," he said. "I think that's why I relate to this character. Arthur has spent his entire life running away from everything that's dangerous until he meets this kid that changes his entire perspective on life.
"To be a good actor, you need a good writer, but you also need a bright and nurturing director. Guy is one of those directors that empowers actors with this sense that they can't fail and that is important."
Mantooth said there are plenty of surprises in store for audiences who attend the show, which opens on Sept. 20, even for those who saw the original production in 2008.
"It's a very funny show but it also has its dark side," he said. "It really wears its pathos on its sleeve."
"The show is like a human chemistry experiment that sets out to discover what will happen when two seemingly different people with different dreams and aspirations collide," he said. "The play ends on a high note, but it's the end of something for two of the characters, and that can be scary sometimes. The finality of saying goodbye is one of the hardest things to do in life."
Tickets for Superior Doughnuts are on sale now and can be purchased online at www.purplerosetheatre.org.