note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Sheila Barth
Reviewed By Sheila Barth
Did you ever participate in a community cakebaking or similar competition? You meet a cross-section of contestants, from kind and thoughtful to down-and-dirty folks, who’ll stoop low enough to sabotage their fellow contestants every way they can.
Colleen Curran’s two-act, two-hour comedic play at times resorts to absurdity and near-caricature with some characters, who lack depth here; but Zeitgeist Stage Company’s production of “Cakewalk” manages to draw a few laughs. The play premiered in 1984, and takes place July 4 that year, in the formerly popular Bayview Inn resort, located in a small Vermont town, where everybody knows everyone else- almost .
As always, Zeitgeist Artistic Director-Director-Stage Designer David Miller has handpicked a fine cast, who all put their best foot forward in this marginally entertaining play. Ashley Risteen adds petulance and pluck to her role as spoiled, dumb blonde, Tiffany Hancock, who’s getting married the next day. Tiffany is upset that her mother, Augusta Connors Hancock (Maureen Adduci), has entered the contest with the wedding cake she created for Tiffany, but Tiffany, who hasn’t seen the cake, doesn’t want anyone else to see it before her big day. But Augusta - finally, and for one time only - wants to do something for herself- compete in the July 4th cake walk. Portraying Vivien Leigh Cleary, Victoria George is a sweet contender. Unbeknownst to most of her fellow contenders, she’s a nun, who entered her chocolate cheesecake in the contest to win the coveted first prize, a trip for two to Paris. Vivien doesn’t want to win the contest for herself, but for an older nun, who has never gone anywhere.
Contestant Martha Britch (Aina Adler), owner of the local Heaven on Earth cafe, entered one of her prized cakes, too. Kindhearted, pragmatic Martha knows Vivien’s real identity as a nun, despite the street clothes Vivien’s wearing. The self-effacing nun didn’t want her habit to unduly influence the judges, she confides.
There’s a villain, too. Unlike Vivien, ambitious, no-holds-barred contestant Ruby Abel (Kelley Estes), takes additional advantage of influencing the judges by wearing her Boy Scouts Den Mother uniform. She’s hell-bent on winning first prize with her Southern Belle cake, which she keeps hidden in a Coca-Cola cooler for safety. Ruby stomps and runs around, ready to report to the judges anything she thinks will disqualify fellow competitors.
Last. but not least, is nerdy contestant Taylor Abbott, (terrific Matt Fagerberg), an archaelogist who’s visiting relatives in the area and was encouraged to enter his coconut log cake.
No male ever entered the contest before, Ruby protests. Martha should be the tie that binds here. She’s Vivien’s confidante, Ruby’s foil, and all-around grounded lady. Turmoil, chaos, and trouble ensues as Ruby tries every trick in the book, including hiding the others’ cakes in a locked closet. She also wins Martha’s sympathy -twice - with her sad tales, over-ruling Martha’s common sense, despite Ruby’s persistent insults and trickery. But is Ruby telling the truth? Vivien is a dedicated nun, but will she stay in the convent after locking eyes and stolen kisses with Taylor? Will Tiffany or Augusta win the argument about the wedding cake, which Tiffany ultimately sees and says it’s too “busy” looking? And what about Martha? It’s all revealed in the end.
A parting comment - for years, David Miller has made a resounding impact on the Boston theatrical scene, winning several awards. He has produced edgy, provocative plays, in the intimate, Plaza Theater space, that left audiences and critics shocked into silence, weeping, and deeply moved. He told me this time, he wanted theatergoers to enjoy lighter, fluffier fare.
However, despite Miller’s, his cast and crew’s efforts, I think somebody left this cake out in the rain.