“What you have to do is really, truly, follow the directions.” Della
Bekah Brunstetter The Cake takes on the subject of Christian bakers not wanting to make cakes for gay couples. The problem is, in this telling is from the beginning North Carolina bakeshop owner Della (Debra Jo Rupp) is manipulated and not given a chance to come to her own conclusion, before she is set up by Macy (Marinda Anderson).
The play starts as Della, a deeply Christian woman is being interviewed by Macy who is an Atheist African-American reporter from Brooklyn, who avoids gluten and thinks sugar is more addictive than cocaine. She’s dismissive when Della excitedly tells her that she’s going to be a contestant on The Great American Baking Show. Macy throws her opinionated views at the confused Della, who thinks she is being interviewed because she made it onto the show. The fact is Macy is the fiancée of Jen (Genevieve Angelson), the daughter of Della’s best friend who has passed away.
Jen to honor her dead mother’s wishes and fulfill her own childhood dreams, has come back to her hometown to get married. She would love her mother’s best friend Della to make the cake, but before Jen has a chance to spring things on Della slowly, Macy outs her. Confused and having this request go against her beliefs, Della states she is booked and can not accommodate Jen’s request even though it is breaking her heart.
Della goes home to her plumber husband Tim (Dan Daily) conflicted. She has seen the love in Jen’s and Macy’s eyes, something that has gone out of her marriage. As she trues to discuss this with her husband, he tells her she has done the right thing and without saying it forbids her to make the cake.
Jen though she loves Macy is conflicted. She was raised in a loving environment that shaped her into a person, who was taught that loving your same sex is a sin. She is dealing with this, but Macy feels that this is inadequate and traitorous to their love. Macy’s dad did not except her coming out and she is angry about that. When Jen asks Della what her mother would have thought, Della tells her the truth and Macy takes revenge by writing an article that Jen knew nothing about and Della’s life turned around.
We learn why Tim has not slept with Della and has been sexually distance in a heartbreaking scene. This turns comedic and loving, as the two move forward in their relationship.
In the end despite the damage that Macy did to Della, Della makes the cake and Macy sees that Della just needed time.
Debra Jo Rupp embodies this show with sugar and spice. She makes us see change is possible. We feel her Southern Christian roots that cling, as she tires to prune them to see what can be accomplished. Rupp’s (best known as the mom in That ’70s Show) terrific performance, as her well-honed comic instincts make Della sympathetic and lovable. As her husband Dan Daily shows us a man in crisis, who also needs a tender push to make a change. Marinda Anderson is glowing as the confused, yet brave Jen who is making strides to move forward. Finally Genevieve Angelson has the toughest job of all, as she fights for her girlfriend, while having her own issues. Ms. Angelson radiates this new generation, that has no patience with a generation that needs a little kindness to move forward.
Directed with a stealth hand by Lynne Meadow (Manhattan Theatre Club), she makes this show seem like the perfect iced delight. John Lee Beatty set is mouthwatering. With all those rows of perfectly decorated cake, the show could have made a lot of extra money, if they had sold slices after the performance. My whole audience was talking about how much they now wanted a slice.
Brunstetter’s play touches on issues that need discussing, but fails in really getting to the meat and the potato’s of the issue. She demonizes Della in fantasy’s of The Great American Baking Show, yet fails to explain why Macy goes against her fiancée’s wishes every time. I get why Della does not hold a grudge against Macy, kudos to her, but what about Macy’s mother? We hear about her, but did she go to the wedding? Is she excepting now? Why does this new generation think every thing happens in a nano second?
Change does not happen over night. In order for peace, understanding and unconditional love to happen, the other side needs to realize that time is needed. You catch more bees with honey or in this case cake.
The Cake: Manhattan Theatre Club, Stage I at New York City Center (131 West 55th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues), through March 31th