True love is not a piece of cake

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Just imagine this: A young woman born and raised in North Carolina leaves home and goes to New York City after her mother dies. While there she falls in love and plans to get married back in her North Carolina hometown of Winston. It all sounds cool so far. The young woman also decides that she wants her wedding cake to be baked her longtime family friend. Makes sense, right?

So the young woman visits the family friend who is thrilled to hear of the young woman’s wedding and as might be expected she nonchalantly asks: “So what is his name?” That is when this story explodes, because in Bekah Brunstetter’s play The Cake a wide and often conflicting range of human beliefs and actions are explored, matters such as race, religion and homosexuality. So when the young woman reveals that the person she is about to marry is also a woman and even more shockingly a black woman the longtime family friend is overwhelmed.

Presenting this story on stage requires not only great writing provided by Bekah Brunstetter, great direction delivered by Jennifer Chambers but a truly top flight team of actors, all of which can be found in this show now at the Echo Theatre in Atwater Village.

The acting team consists of Joe Hart [Tim], Morrison Keddie [George], Shannon Lucio [Jen — the bride to be], Carolyn Ratteray [Macy — the ‘husband’ to be] and Debra Jo Rupp [Della]. What this group of people has created and are presenting is a truly powerful and meaningful performance that will reach deep within all who see it all while stimulating deep thoughts and feelings. While all in the cast is superb Debra Jo Rupp as Della keeps it all from becoming dark with her abundant application of wit and humor.

The fact of the matter is not all people are heterosexual, somewhere around 10 to 15 percent are in fact homosexual and this reality has gained far broader acceptance than once existed. But another fact is that a very large percentage of American society is Christian and believes in the teachings of the Bible. “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” Levitcus 20:13 is but one example.

But it is also fact that not one word of the Bible was written by Jesus Christ. It is also basically true the familial love is the strongest love which creates a very powerful conflict within Della when confronted with the prospect of a very much beloved family friend is about to violate religious teachings she has long been devoted too.

While not particularly stressed in the performance, clearly race is another element for Macy is a black woman about to marry a white woman in a state were slaves were once common and where many take Biblical teachings very literally. These are extremely powerful elements and it would be very easy for any presentation of these elements to slip off into one direction or another resulting in some form of catastrophe. Every element of The Cake has been superbly created and is being exquisitely performed on stage. It is simply brilliant and deserves full attention.

You may enjoy this experience at The Echo Theatre Company. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, California. The show will run now through August 6th with shows Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 4:00 p.m. Reservations and ticketing are available online or by calling: 310-307-3753.

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Top photo of Debra Jo Rupp by Darrett Sanders