BWW Review: Get Yourself a Slice of THE RED VELVET CAKE WAR at THEATRE DOWNTOWN
As summer creeps up on us in the south, plans are already at play for BBQ's, graduations, and family reunions. Some relatives know just how to turn up the temperature at every get together. Hot-blooded family tempers easily turn citronella candles in nitro glycerin. Ever been a witness to a cousins "dirty laundry" getting aired out while everyone is trying to eat? Sometimes, it's best to ask Cousin Karen to just leave, and please take her poor attempt at a no paprika potato salad with raisins. "The Red Velvet Cake War" captures all of the drama and love found in family get together, no matter what side of the Mason-Dixon line you are from.
Director Kathleen Jensen provided a necessary balance of the silliness not going too far off the deep end but still be quite silly. Her attention to comedy and southern nuances built a strong house for the actors to play in. The charm of the play is its hodgepodge of southern sweetness, sass and shenanigans. It is a silly, lighthearted play, seasoned like a southern sitcom set in good ol' Sweetgum Texas.
The story follows the lives of three cousins leading up to the family reunion. Gaynelle (Leslie Price) is the flighty one with a knack for getting in over her head. Cousin Peaches (Suzee Wood) is the fast acting /free spirited beautician to the deceased who is living out of her RV. Then there is tom-boyish Cousin Jimmie (Elizabeth Daniel) who is the more grounded of the three. With the family reunion approaching, Cousin Gaynelle's couldn't of picked a worse time for her typical antics. She is fresh out of jail for accidentally ramming her car into her husband's mistress doublewide, with her in it. This has her in the crosshairs of the law for a mental health evaluation. Gaynelle's ruckus done stirred up the busy-beehive of the family, Aunt LaMerle (Donna Littlepage). Her disgust and shame of her niece leads LaMerle to cancel the reunion. The three cousins are not having it and they decide to host the reunion at Gaynelles house. Aunt LaMerle confronts Gaynelle, and the two enter into an unexpected winner take all Red Velvet Cake contest to be held at the reunion. The plot thickens for each of the ladies, and so does the funny. Clever word play, corny jokes and fun folksy characters get tossed into the mix.
The plot is heavily seasoned as a sitcom set in the south. The story is rich with plenty of colorful characters to propel the material. The bad side of this leads to some pockets where the plot starts to bite off more than it can chew. The writers tried to connect their multiple ideas in a way that resulted in some rapid exposition that feels rushed at times.
The cast is rounded out with colorful southern characters in a similar flavor of "Greater Tuna." You got a Bedazzeld and sassy TV host Cee Cee Windham (Salena Whalen-Stalker). The charismatic 90 year old salty elder Uncle Aubrey (Douglas O'Neil, Jr.) Newt Blaylock (Chuck Evans), the hapless one-eyed Romeo. Bitsy Hargis (Robin Rushing ) the sneaky neighbor with a playful pretentiousness. The wound up German psychiatrist Elsa (Anastasia Ferrell). Actor Andrew Willmore delivers an energetic Don Knotts caliber performance as Sheriff Grover and Cousin Pervis.
"The Red Velvet Cake War" is a tasty slice of southern life with a solid cast of local talent. Get a slice before it's gone this weekend.
The Red Velvet Cake War
By Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten
Directed by Kathleen Jensen
Sarrting- Salena Whalen-Stalker, Leslie Price, Donna Littlepage, Douglas O'Neil, Jr., Elizabeth Daniel, Suzee Wood, Robin Rushing, Chuck Evans, Andrew Willmore, Anastasia Ferrell.
April 26th - May 13th
(Mother's Day matinee - Sunday May 13th , 2pm)
2410 5th Ave S, (in Fifth Ave Antiques)
Birmingham, AL 35233
For tickets and more info - theatredowntown.org or (205) 565-8838
Tickets at theatredowntown.org or (205) 565-8838