Theatre Review: ‘The Cake’ at Horizon Theatre

Horizon Theatre is presenting the Atlanta premiere of Bekah Brunstetter’s comedy/drama “The Cake,” directed by Lauren Morris and running through June 23.

Program notes indicate that Ms. Brunstetter, from Winston-Salem, North Carolina (the play’s site is Winston, NC) got the idea for the play from the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which made it to the Supreme Court. A baker refused to make a Colorado same-sex couple a wedding cake.

Actually, you may be more familiar with Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who in 2015 defied a U. S. federal court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. To many, she was a clear example of using a “religious liberty” argument to discriminate. The Supreme Court refused to hear her case; Ms. Davis served a few days in jail and lost her next election.

Back to Winston and the play: Della (Marcie Millard) is the vivacious proprietor of Della’s Sweets; she’s a devout Southern Baptist; business is good and she is set to appear as a contestant on a TV program called The Great American Baking Show. She lives with her down-home husband Tim (Allan Edwards); they have no children.

Into the picture pops Jen (Rhyn McLemore Saver), who is the daughter of Jen’s best friend, who died five years before the play’s action. Jen cheerily announces that she’s getting married, and would like Della to make a wedding cake for her? Della is delighted: “Of course!” she says.

However, there’s one little detail that Jen hasn’t yet shared, but finally does: Her soon-to-be spouse is a woman. Her name is Macy (Parris Sarter), who also happens to be African-American.

Let’s just say that Della’s enthusiasm suddenly wanes; she fumbles with her calendar and, oh dear, she is already booked up for that month. Of course both Della and Jen know what’s going on.

You see, Della is by nature loving and vivacious; but she’s a woman who deeply believes in following recipes. “See, what you have to do is really, truly follow the directions.” Mrs. Alving, a character in an Ibsen play called “Ghosts” said, “Ideals, ideals! What about the truth?”

Director Morris comments that “People aren’t so simple. They can hold many truths at once…” So we have two characters (Della and Jen) who love each other but have diametrically opposed beliefs. “Love is always harder,” writes Ms. Morris. And Ms. Brunstetter, the playwright, says “You still have to love your family. You still have to reach across the table.”

It is left to the four marvelous actors in “The Cake” to work out the details for us, so to speak. I hope you see them. They all bring disparate aspects of human beings to the table. Ms. Sarter’s Macy is fiery and confident, for the most part. And let’s just say that Mr. Edwards’ easy-going Tim will surprise you—big time. Ms. Saver’s

Jen (Ms. Saver) is earnest, kind, and conflict-avoidant—if at all possible. But when she asks Della if Jen’s mother would have supported her marriage, Della’s anguished response, and then Jen’s, may break your heart.

Marcie Millard is well-known as an accomplished actor/singer on the musical stage. But as Della in “The Cake,” she astonishes with a performance of almost overpowering range, subtlety, and depth.

Scenic designers Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay create a cake shop so colorful and delectable that you want to take a bite of it.

This “Cake” is well-nigh irresistible; it doesn’t solve a thorny socio-political problem, but it offers a ray of hope and healing.

For tickets and information, visit horizontheatre.com.

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