Arts & Culture

Meaningful laughter is a piece of cake at Pacific Theatre

By Lorraine Graves

Published 3:06 PDT, Wed May 22, 2019

Last Updated: 4:09 PDT, Tue July 2, 2019

The laughter starts about two seconds into "The Cake".

The laughter starts about two seconds into "The Cake".

The play opens with an Edith Prickly-esque character, Della, complete with leopard print shoes and brilliant orange hair, walking into her cake shop and, while piping white icing onto a pink 2-layer cake, forthrightly explains what’s wrong with so many home bakers today.

They are “Skimping,” Della, played by Erla Faye Forsyth, says vehemently all the while remembering her southern manners. She complains that too many cooks try to rush through a recipe, not following the instructions to the letter.

She only makes, “Full fat cakes,” because she says, “Why go to Rome if you’re not going to eat the pasta?”

She continues piping the icing she describes, “Cake from a box tastes like scotch tape dipped in Splenda.”

She describes her own cakes as the taste of time and obedience.

And don’t get her started on gluten-free cakes, “It tasted like the back of my mouth after a good cry,” she says.

Della knows the world would be a better place if everyone would just sit down and relish a good piece of cake. It brought to mind Flanders and Swann’s In the Bath.

As you can tell, the writing in this play is tight, funny and insiteful. The writer, Bekah Brunstetter also writes for the TV series, "This is Us", which also brims with heart-felt reality and more than a little pathos.

So too, "The Cake".

Not all productions have a cake sponsor like Short Sweet Patisseries and Bakery but the latest offering from Pacific Theatre is all about cakes. But there is a deeper meaning. When is a cake not just a cake?

Della’s adopted niece, Jen played by Stephanie Elgersma, shows up in town, five years after Jen’s mother’s death. To bond, she spent the last two months of her life helping her daughter plan the wedding mom would never get to see.

Now, Jen is back in town to have that wedding and wants it perfect, exactly as planned, complete with a cake from Della’s shop.

But there is a twist. This is the deep south. Jen’s fiancée is Macy, played by Cecilly Day. Things go hysterically and poignantly off track. Love tugs at everyone’s hearts while both sides pay a price for acting on their values.

Della’s traditional, plumber husband, Tim played by Tim Dixon, is also acting perfection. When Della wants to spice up their sex life with a little butter cream icing piped onto her chest, Tim protests, “But we haven’t even had supper yet!”

Playwright Brunstetter is clear when speaking of Della, “It was really important to me to start with a character who has conservative values and make her the hero. Then have her do something that we, the liberal theatre audience, don’t agree with. We have to wrestle with how we feel about her, just like she’s wrestling with her belief system.”

Everyone on all sides wrestles with how they love and their choices.

All the actors in this play offer vivid, true performances with a great script and an innovative set.The set changes come quickly and seamlessly as the cake shop transforms into two different bedrooms with two very different couples.

Under Angela Konrad’s direction, the play rings brilliantly true.

The sound is stellar. At one point, Della whispers and we can hear every word. The background music unobtrusively flows with the story and the lighting, including cake tin lights hanging from the ceiling, is always spot-on.

In an alley theatre, much thought has to go into the blocking. In the whole performance, there were only two instances where I felt short-changed on the action.

There is more humour than pathos in this production. Go for the laughter. Go for the deeper, humanising meaning but, in any case, go see "The Cake" at Pacific Theatre.

As director Konrad quotes the late Rachel Held Evans in her playbill notes, “Love is always harder.”

Runs through June 8.

For tickets click or call (604) 731-5518

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