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Planning a wedding comes with enough stress (and, yes, plenty of joy and love, too). Choosing the cake should be the easy part—right? Not for Jen. She wants her late mother’s best friend, Della, to bake the cake for her nuptials. But when Della discovers that Jen is marrying Macy, a woman, she says no.
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The Cake, Curious Theatre Company’s 21st season opener, was inspired, in part, by the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. A quick refresher on the local story that took over national headlines this summer: Six years ago, Lakewood sweets-maker Jack Phillips declined to bake a custom cake for same-sex couple Charlie Craig and David Mullins. The pair went to court, saying they were discriminated against based on sexual orientation. The case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in June, ruled in favor of Phillips.
The play, though, goes beyond the real-life narrative and others like it. In The Cake, playwright Bekah Brunstetter (who’s also a lead writer and executive producer on This Is Us) brings the story all in the family, with the baker and couple connected not just by happenstance.
While the show gets off to a slow start—it takes a few minutes to catch on after a cryptic set-up—Brunstetter’s poignant writing and well-timed humor, which will be familiar to This Is Us fans (there will be less crying, we promise), carry the audience through some tough conversations. As Della, played brilliantly by Emma Messenger, stirs her cake batter and competes on the Great American Baking Show, we watch her reevaluate her opinions and their genesis. (Messenger’s facial expressions alone are worthy of an award, as she flirts and stumbles and processes her emotions.) We see her question her own marriage and why love has been given, by some, set boundaries. Here, Della is in the spotlight, not the couple.
Jada Suzanne Dixon, who plays Macy, is the interrogator: strong-willed and tired of having to fight back against homophobes and a system that, as she says, was not designed for her, a queer black woman. (It doesn’t help her cause with Della that she doesn’t eat gluten.) While she sometimes came across as a sullen teenager (Dixon could reduce the amount of irritated sneering), Macy is a character completely of our time. She’s unwavering in her opinions and unwilling to look at her life—and at her life with Jen—from another person’s perspective.
If you go: Catch The Cake on stage at Curious Theatre Company through October 13. The show is 95 minutes with no intermission. (Note: There is some brief nudity.) Tickets are $25 to $40.