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Human Race’s “The Cake” is a New Slice of Conflict

Review by Raechel Lombardo of “The Cake”: Human Race Theatre

Bekah Brunstetter’s play “The Cake” brings a new flavor to the modern-day conflict between those in the LGBTQ+ community and those who are of a more conservative mindset.  I often only see productions that are set in an earlier era presenting this issue, but to see it brought up to a contemporary setting is even more powerful, as the LGBTQ+ community still struggles to seek normalcy and acceptance among everyone.

“The Cake” tells the story of Della, a baker who, with her hands full already preparing for casting in “The Great American Baking Show”, is asked to prepare a cake for the wedding of her best friend’s daughter, Jen. When she discovers that Jen is marrying a woman, Della must reconsider her long-held Christian beliefs and assumptions to decide whether she can contribute to a gay wedding.

Each actor was strong in defining their distinct circumstances and characteristics for their roles, and ensured at least some sort of understanding for each character; whether you agree or not you can be swayed into empathy.  Claire Kennedy as Jen brings such wonderful depth to such a kind character. Candice Handy is unapologetic, truthful, and real in her hard exterior as Macy, Jen’s fiancee. Tim Lile, as Della’s husband Tim, works an unexpected child-like angle for his close-minded “man’s man”. Finally, Laurie Carter Rose as Della handles the confusion and desire for understanding, love, and to be heard in such a delicious way that can help to bridge that connection that some may be missing. Her performance is made even stronger by the distinguishing, contrasting dynamics of Handy, Kennedy, and Lile, each of whom offers a new perspective for Rose to taste, marinate over, and grow from in her continuous hunger for insight as her character develops.

Director Greg Hellems has clearly standardized an open conversation and trust among his actors and team.  Stage manager Jacquelyn Duncan deserves kudos for being so on top of clean-ups and proper executions of food for the sake of the humor–it must have been stressful!  Jay Brunner as sound designer establishes a fun transition from reality to fantasy game show that is so enjoyable without visuals.  Scenic designer Dan Gray must have had a blast replicating that bakery that everyone has seen at some point with the pastels and religious décor: very familiar and spot-on.  Costume Designer Jessica Pitcairn took these unique, specific, individual people and made sure their wardrobe fit them to a T (or tee, rather).  And John Rensel as lighting designer distinguished that precise store lighting from night lighting, lamps, and hotspots, which all were instrumental in performing certain jokes.

The Human Race Theatre Company’s theme for the 2019-2020 season is “Women of Influence:  Their Power, Passion and Pitfalls”. I say this as this company is honoring this theme very well with what has started and what’s to come (even starting at the end of last season with their incredible production of “Lizzie”).  This is a play that provides a strong variety in female characters that are so different and individualistic, often a difficult opportunity to come by for women in the industry who otherwise must settle for more stereotypic parts.

“The Cake” is performed by Dayton’s Human Race Theatre through November 17th. Tickets can be obtained at Human Race’s website, http://humanracetheatre.org.