What do you get when you combine one part moral turmoil, two parts insightful directors and five parts incredible cast? Two words: “The Cake.”
The play by Bekah Brunstetter was produced by the University of Nevada, Reno’s Theatre and Dance Department, and saw its closing night on Saturday, Oct. 19 after a very successful run.
Directed by Associate Theatre Professor Rob Gander and student director Marygrace McManus, “The Cake” discusses topics of religion, morality and love.
It tells the story of Della, a small-town baker with dreams of being on “The Great American Baking Show.” When her late best friend’s daughter, Jen, arrives in town with news of her engagement to a woman, Della is forced to confront her own moral and religious beliefs. Jen and her fiance, Macy, must also confront their own differences in beliefs and are put through trials and tribulations—only to come out on the other side with a much better understanding of one another.
Both Jen and Della face the most moral struggles in the show and the two actresses did an incredible job of showing this.
Sandra Neace, who played Della, brought so much heart to the character. Della’s character is a sweet and tragic person, and Neace makes it hard for the audience not to love her. Her wholesomeness and strong comedic timing sends the audience into their own moral questioning of whether or not they like and support her. In one of the most heartbreaking scenes of the show, Neace is stripped down to a nightgown—begging her husband to show that he loves her again when everything is crumbling around her. It was such an engaging moment of vulnerability and truly hard to forget. Neace was simply a powerhouse who brought electricity to the stage.
Jen, who was portrayed with great innocence and passion by Alexis Pedote, was one of the characters who showed the greatest growth. Starting out as demure and excitable, Pedote shows a great emotional arc as Jen is forced to choose what is most important to her. In one of her most powerful scenes, she delivers an intense monologue to Della about self-acceptance and self-respect that ends with her cutting ties indefinitely. Pedote understood the responsibility of telling this story, and it showed with her beautiful performance.
Both Macy and Tim, Jen and Della’s partners respectively, provided much of the tension in the show. The characters represented the far conservative and far liberal ends of the spectrum that caused much of Della and Jen’s moral struggle.
Calista Lacy showed many layers of Macy’s personality and did a great job of presenting a strong-headed, but wounded character. It is clear that everything Macy does is out of love, but she can come off abrasive. This harsh attitude kept the play grounded in the realities of the world. Lacy gave off waves of confidence—commanding attention when on stage, which perfectly fit the role.
Wood, much like Neace, made it hard for the audience to dislike his character, even when he was saying such harsh things. He was charming and interesting, but also knew how to show the closed off and frustrating side of the character. He showed so much heart and in the end he expressed how much he cared for Della—even while sticking to his beliefs.
The final and most honorable character in the show was George, Della’s dream man and host of “The Great American Baking Show.” George, played brilliantly by Thomas Rao, would pop in throughout the show as the center of Della’s fantasies. His hilarious quips and great timing added a lightheartedness to the show that reminded the audience of the many different aspects of someone’s personality. Even as Della was struggling so intensely, her creative mind comes up with wild and fun scenarios.
Overall, “The Cake” was an extremely enjoyable show. The cast was made up of such powerhouse actors, and Gander and McManus told this story with great benevolence. The set design was gorgeous and the various cakes used throughout the show were mouthwatering.
Bethany Haspel can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @NevadaSagebush.