Sweet and Salty: “The Cake” at CFRT

“The Cake”, a play by Bekah Brunstetter, is my favorite kind of theater: hilarious, heart-warming, and profoundly topical. I was going to say it was like pineapple upside down cake, which is my favorite kind of cake, but I couldn’t figure out the topical part: maybe it’s the maraschino cherries?

Cape Fear Regional Theatre, the crown jewel of theater in Fayetteville*, is currently running this show. It was our first show to see after moving to town. I was really excited to see it on the season list, as it is the type of play that pushes the envelope for a Southern, relatively conservative theater audience. But that’s what theater is for, right? To wake up viewers, cause them to think about long-held beliefs, empathize with characters, and maybe realize we all have common human traits.

This production tickles the funny bone as much as it twinges the heart-strings. Brunstetter has drawn authentically complex characters and this cast brings them delightfully to life. I rooted for Della and Tim as much as for Jen and Macy. Love is love is love.

Since the play is an intimate one–four characters, minimal number of sets needed–CFRT brought the audience onto the regular proscenium stage, building risers to accommodate seating around the glorious set. The bakery is, dare I say, a confectionery, all pastels and gingerbread trim. The prop cakes were stunning, thanks to the handiwork of Susannah-Lee Wagner, props artisan. The turntable bedroom and upstairs loft space are breath-taking in such close quarters. Jimmy Bennett’s costumes and Dan Robbins’ lights help establish character and mood.

And I have to give a shout-out to the crack stage management team! Scene transitions can make or break a show and they were efficient and focused, even fixing a set dressing snafu in between scenes. Credit where credit’s due, y’all: I didn’t notice a missed light or sound cue, transitions were quick, and everything moved smoothly. This is the mark of fine theater craftsmanship, just as much as what the actors do on stage.

The proverbial icing on the cake is the actual cake served up post-show, thanks to local bakery Sweet Palette (another huge arts supporter that we’ll profile later). I do hope that CFRT can find other ways to work in partnering with different local businesses for future shows. Complimentary mud facials for Shrek, perhaps?

*The other theaters are jewel-like in their own ways. More on them soon.