THE CAKE: Baking, Conservatism, Love and Community

[ 0 ] February 6, 2018 |

by lisa lipsey – 

In this world premiere play from play-and-screen writer/producer Bekah Brunstetter (This Is Us), The Cake introduces audiences to Jen, who lives in New York, but has always dreamed of getting married in her small North Carolina hometown. She heads down south with her partner, asking her late mother’s best friend, Della, to do the honors of making her wedding cake.

Della, whose cakes are legendary (she is a recent contestant on the Great American Baking Show), is overjoyed at Jen’s request. Until she realizes there’s not just one bride, but two. Can she really make a cake for such a wedding? Della has to re-examine some of her deeply-held beliefs, as well as her own marriage and think for herself.

Brunstetter wrote the play as she grappled with the world she grew up in and the world she came to know in her college years, “I come from a conservative family, a Southern Baptist Church. When I went to study drama at a very liberal school for my undergrad degree, there were new people and new ideas and it felt right. My love of my roots, my family and my love of my new community of people made me feel fractured. Over the last four or five years, I have tried to knit the two things together.”

“I could not have more empathy for the values I was raised with, I can’t relate and that is okay,” Brunstetter continued. “I get a little defensive and protective of people with conservative values. I just wasn’t seeing a lot of honest exploration into where people with conservative values are coming from, so I made that person one of the protagonists. She doesn’t go through miraculous change, but she learns how to honor those values and find a middle ground.”

According to Brunstetter, “The hardest thing was going with my parents to see the show. It was horrible, but important and cool to share what I had been thinking about with them. It was terrifying, and I thought, ‘This is why I write plays.’ The show was difficult for them in a lot of ways, but they are incredibly proud of me. It speaks to their character, that they put their beliefs aside to love me and support me.”

“I get a little defensive and protective of people with conservative values. I just wasn’t seeing a lot of honest exploration into where people with conservative values are coming from, so I made that person one of the protagonists.”

The Cake just had a run in the Los Angeles area. Here at La Jolla Playhouse, it is under the direction of Casey Stangl who was appointed by 2017 Tony Award-Winning Director (Come From Away), and La Jolla Playhouse Artistic Director, Christopher Ashley. Stangl and Ashley have put a whole new cast and crew together, and Brunstetter found an opportunity to do some minor tweaking of the script.

“I feel like a play always needs to change a bit for the actors. Yet, you have to be careful not to over-craft it, or break what is working. I am doing specific fine-tuning work, nit-picky stuff. Christopher [Ashley] and the cast are helping me to figure it out. I send them new pages and they play with them and give me feedback…It has been very exciting.”

The La Jolla Playhouse has zoomed in on the play’s timeliness, given the Supreme Court is about to rule on the case of “Baker vs. Same Sex Couple,” as many headlines have read. Brunstetter is following it closely, “I am so curious to see what the Supreme Court decision is and I think all I can hope—I am not a political strategic and I am not a super didactic writer and let this be naïve if it is—that each side will step forward toward the middle and remember their humanity…and the humanity of others. It is a tragedy on both sides and I have no idea what it means in terms of politics or the justice system, I see good people trying to do the right thing. I am not trying to protect Jack. Charlie and David and David’s Mom were treated unfairly over a basic human right, love.”

When the curtain closes on The Cake, Brunstetter has a final wish, “My thinking has always been that everyone loves cake, and it is a unifier. My stress-relieving place is baking, I put aside my worries and thoughts and make something beautiful. I hope my play has that same effect on people.”

The Cake runs Tuesday, February 6 through Sunday, March 4 at La Jolla Playhouse. Check out their special Valentine’s Day matinee followed by a post-show panel discussion on Wednesday, February 14 at 1 p.m. For tickets and more information call 858.550.1010 or go to: lajollaplayhouse.org.

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Category: San Diego, Theatre

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