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BWW Review: THE CAKE at Iowa Stage

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This production will start a conversation through November 21.

BWW Review: THE CAKE at Iowa Stage
Becky Scholtec a Della

In March 2020, as Iowa Stage was getting ready to open their production of "The Cake," they had to start delaying their production due to the first cases of Covid 19 in Iowa. When it became clear that it wasn't going to be staged anytime soon, they took the initiative to present an outdoor staged reading. While I couldn't attend that reading, I heard from many people how great it was. So I was thrilled when they announced that their return to the Stoner Theatre at Des Moines Performing arts was going to be "The Cake" by Bekah Brunstetter. The production opened up on November 12 and was a fantastic reminder of what Iowa Stage does best, presenting a show that asks the audience to reflect on what they had just seen.

"The Cake" is a play that is a fictional story that is ripped right from the headlines. Two women, Macy and Jen, are getting ready for their upcoming wedding. Jen reaches out to her deceased mother's best friend, Della, who happens to be preparing to be on The Great American Bake Off to make their wedding cake. There's one issue, Della is religious and doesn't support Jen and Macy's wedding. While she says that she is booked at the time of the wedding, it is clear that she doesn't want to make the wedding cake because of who Jen is marrying. Della's husband, Tim, shares that he supports her decision not to make the cake. How do Macy and Jen handle the situation, and will Della make the cake even though it goes against her beliefs? That you will have to go to the show to find out.

Walking into the Stoner Theatre will make you feel like you are walking into a bakery. That is thanks to the stunning set designed by 2020 Cloris Lifetime Achievement winner Jay Michael Jagim. I appreciated how the bakery became a proscenium at times as pieces were brought on and off stage to take us to the different places within the play. The set worked well with Brandon Kair's sound design which had a faux entrance. When paired with the sound's playing of a bell ringing, it acted as the entrance to the bakery. All of this is beautifully lit by Dakota Sommer and costumed by Stephanie Wilber.

Under the direction of Jennifer Nostralia, the cast mixes all the ingredients with their characters to allow the audience to see the story happening on stage and feel the struggles each character is going through. The struggle of reaching out to someone who has different views than we do, but what this play beautifully does, it allows us to all take the time to listen. When we take that time to listen and have a conversation, we can see change happening. It may be small, but we get to see it.

The baker at the center of it all, Della, is played by Becky Scholtec, who beautifully shows the struggle of if she should bake the cake or not. While, at times, Scholtec delivers a comedic performance, I loved the scenes where she was able to show the heart of the character. In the end, you may agree or disagree with the choice her character makes, but you have a complete understanding of her final decision. Along with James Serpento's Jim, Her Della tells a beautiful story within the show about a couple who struggle with something that is all too common, the inability to have children. The care they handle their character's story with will move everyone in attendance.

The show's central conflict is the issue of having the cake baked for Macy and Jen, played by Rae Davis Fehring and Kim Haymes, as they prepare for their upcoming wedding day. I appreciated their portrayal because they were able to bring out the difference of views within the couple getting married. With Fehring's portrayal of Macy, we see someone who has faced adversity their whole life and is ready to take a stand and do something about it. With Haymes' portrayal of Jen, we see the opposite. We see someone newly seeing the adversity but struggles with what to do as Della was a close friend of her mother while she was alive.

After a year without live theatre, it's refreshing to sit back and see a show that tackles an issue that is difficult for many, and in the end, allows the audience to leave and contemplate what they saw on stage. The care put into this show by the fantastic cast and crew allows us as audience members to stop, listen, and be open to discussing what we all saw happen onstage. This stunning production of Bekah Brunstetter's "The Cake" is only playing for a limited time through November 21. To find out more information about the show, visit https://www.iowastage.org/the-cake. To purchase tickets to the show, visit https://desmoinesperformingarts.org/events/the-cake-istc/.

Review was written by DC Felton
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