Echo Theater Company Artistic Director Chris Fields takes chances. Playwright Beckah Brunstetter has taken a chance as well with The Cake. This World Premiere play opens doors for discussion by addressing a moral question that brings each of us back to the way we are taught. Or, just maybe, the way we have over come our basic education.
For Della (Debra Jo Rupp) Competitive Baker of Della’s Bakery in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the excitement of her ‘niece’ Jen’s! (Shannon Lucio) engagement announcement crumbles as it becomes clear that her intended is not the cute boy she dated in college, but sophisticated and socially acute Macy (Carolyn Ratteray)!
|Debra Jo Rupp |
Photo by Darrett Sanders
Conflict is the key to great theatre and Brunstetter’s story does not disappoint. Tackling not only same sex marriage but the power of social media and the deep roots of conservative Christian upbringing expanded to middle aged ennui, we have a multitude of issues to conquer.
On Pete Hickok’s impressive set we first get to know Macy and her modern take on sugar and meat and the issues of the day that embrace responsibility. Della is excited to learn that Macy is from New York City! As Macy takes notes (she’s a writer of articles on line) regarding Della’s basic approach to life (butter and sugar are fundamental!) as well as the simple construct that reading the recipe and following instructions is the only way to have your cake (and by extension one’s entire life) bake to perfection. The imperfection of the dawning of the age of liberation for minorities of every stripe may be in conflict with her basic Bible learnings.
|Carolyn Ratteray and Shannon Lucio|
Photo by Darrett Sanders
This is an apt dilemma. The loyalty of love for her best friend’s daughter collides not only with her basic Christian moral platform, but we meet Tim (Joe Hart) her busy plumber/septic tank cleaner husband who, as a good North Carolinian, believes that the Man rules the roost By Declaration. Della’s frustration with her lack of marital intimacy stays under wraps until she begins to get it that Macy and Jen truly love one another. What they do in their bedroom, though aberrant to Della’s upbringing, is, in part, what Love is all about. More basic moral conflict arises when Macy and Jen themselves butt up against some deeply held beliefs by Jen that Macy has never had to deal with. And! vice versa.
Again, we have to be carefully taught.
The fantasy of Della’s imagined appearance on television’s The Great American Baking Show comes to life when the Godlike voice of “George” (bombastic VO by Morrison Keddie) booms down in harsh criticism berating Della. His crude questions make her question her own state of affairs. Her desire to win the competition and to “be on TV!!” brings her back to her own basic ingredients for her baking that include in every cake and muffin "...angel’s saliva and good deeds!"
The power of social media bursts onto the scene that reminded me of a scene in the movie “Doubt” where the analogy of a feather pillow bursting over an urban space is used to show how rumor and missed understandings, once unleashed, can never be reclaimed. Overcoming disappointment and finding fulfillment are not always easy to attain, but this show will not disappoint. Director Jenifer Chambers’ delicate hand never shows as these skilled actors tell this important story.
THE CAKE by Beckah Brunstetter
The Echo Theatre Company
Los Angeles, CA90039
Through August 6, 2017
Tickets and Information:
310 307 3753