Review: THE CAKE at Omaha Community Playhouse

The Omaha Community Playhouse is serving up a true slice of life with their production of "The Cake"

By: Oct. 28, 2022

The Omaha Community Playhouse has cooked up another hit with their current production of The Cake. Serving a true slice of life for many in the LGBTQ+ community, The Cake tells the story of small town conservative bakery owner (and hopefully soon-to-be baking show champion) Della as she is confronted with a crisis of beliefs and religious/political stances. When the daughter of her best friend comes to town and asks her to bake a cake for her big day, Della is ecstatic to have the opportunity to shower her unofficial adopted daughter with love on her big day. But when the identity of her fiancé comes to light, Della finds herself booked for the month and unable to accommodate Jen's request. The journey Della takes is one that many can relate to when being confronted with differing views and beliefs, and is one that reminds audiences that growth isn't guaranteed or easy on any parties involved.

It's clear that director Kim Clark-Kaczmarek approached this production with care and an honest desire to tell this story in a way that many audience members will be able to relate to, regardless of the character. Her blocking is minimal, but intentional, and she has assembled a stellar cast to help bring this story to life.

Kathleen Combs is a delight as Della, and regardless of where you find yourself on certain social and political issues that are addressed in the show, you can't help but like the Della that Combs creates and know that she is trying, which is more than most people sometimes. She never speaks out of hate or anger, but a genuine conviction due to her own religious beliefs and the world she has known for what the audience can only assume has been her entire life. Combs finds that delicate balance between comedy and drama, which is not easy for most performers while maintaining honesty or authenticity in the dialogue and intention of the show. No lines are thrown away, and the audience feels the struggle she's going through with her heart pulling her in different directions.

Delaney Jackson and Roz Parr are simply wonderful as the beautiful couple to be wed, playing Macy and Jen respectively. Jackson's Macy is strong, smart, and wants desperately for her bride to be to have the perfect wedding she has dreamed of. She wants the best for Jen, even if that means ordering a cake that she won't partake in herself, and ordering it from a baker who means a lot to Jen, but who doesn't understand what Macy and Jen mean to each other. Jackson's acting choices feel authentic to her character, and I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future. Review: THE CAKE at Omaha Community Playhouse Parr's Jen is as sweet as Della's icing, with a true desire to see the best in/believe the best about people. She struggles with how her mom might feel about her upcoming wedding, as her mom passed away before she ever met Macy, but wants to have a part of her there with the addition of a cake made by her best friend, Della. Parr is honest, real, and tugs at the heartstrings of those who might have had similar conversations in life, even if they weren't about cake. I won't be surprised to see any of these ladies recognized when awards season rolls around.

Rounding out the small cast of four is Doug Rothgeb, who plays Della's husband, Tim. While Tim may not be anywhere close to where Della is on her journey to growth and acceptance, he also isn't hateful. He isn't mean. He's simply set in his ways and not eager to hear differing thoughts and viewpoints. Through Rothgeb's careful handling of the role, the audience gets to know this hardworking husband and the struggles bubbling beneath the surface for Tim and Della, while balancing the dialogue and subject matter with levity and honesty. One of the bedrooms scenes between him and Combs provided some of the biggest laughs of the evening, while maintaining the heartfelt gesture Tim makes and the integrity of the scene.

Scenic designer Sophie Knauss provides an impressive backdrop with her set design, bringing the audience directly into Della's shop, full of mouthwatering cakes and pops of color that draw the eye of the audience from the moment they enter the theatre. Jocelyn Reed's costumes are lovely, although I feel like the direction taken with Jen's outfits didn't necessarily always fit the character being portrayed by Parr. The wedding outfits were beautiful and a highlight for the show.

While there is no arguing that the cast and creative team behind this Omaha Community Playhouse production more than do justice to the authors words, I would have to say that the script does need some more time. While many moments are flushed out and characters are given believable actions and dialogue, it feels at the end like the author didn't want to extend beyond the 90 minute run time and instead chose to try to close up storylines that would've greatly benefited from even 5 to 10 more minutes in the oven.

Della may or may not get the results she wants from the baking competition she's prepping to compete in, but this cast and creative team make this production of The Cake a win. There are still 2 weekends left to visit Della's bakery, and I highly encourage Omaha audiences to make the trip. The show itself sets the tone for a rich evening of meaningful theater and discussion, and the refreshments at the reception following the production are truly icing on an already wonderful cake.

Photography by: Robertson Photography

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