Presented by Zeitgeist Stage Company
Written by Colleen Curran
Directed by David J. Miller
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Boston, MA) It is Independence Day 1984. The ladies of a small town in Vermont have won a place in the annual cakewalk competition and are patiently awaiting the critique of guest judge, Julia Child. First prize is a glamorous trip for two to Paris, France. Among the other prizes are a lifetime supply of flour and accolades from the citizenship for an entire year. Most of the gang looks forward to the friendly competition. Ruby Abel (Kelley Estes) is out for blood. Ready to slow down her paranoid manipulations are fellow contestants Martha (Aina Adler), Augusta (Maureen Adduci) and Leigh (Victoria George). Taylor (Matt Fagerberg) just wants to find the registration room. Each has their own secrets to keep and insecurities to air. A seemingly safe summer fair turns into a conundrum of colliding small town politics.
Cakewalk is Steel Magnolias (with cake) meets Our Town (without the death). This play is about the moments that carry great weight as they occur but become fond anecdotes with hindsight. It’s about validation and recognition. The desire for appreciation/social acceptance is universal. We meet a cast of women who at first don’t feel recognized for their talents but move towards a place of understanding. It isn’t brave but it is relatable and sweet.
Cakewalk isn’t splashy. No one contemplates the greater impact of humanity, or the meaning of life. Rather, Curran’s focus is on the daily interactions that make up life. These women are normal people facing a challenging but not unusual dilemma. Anyone of us watching could be any one of the the navel gazing characters onstage. That’s enough to make their circumstances compelling. Also, there’s cake.
The ensemble is very well cast. They read like a highly dysfunctional but quite loving family. Their characters are immediately unique yet reminiscent of someone we know. You can’t help but like them despite their idiosyncrasies.
Estes is a heinous bitch of a villain. I’m sure she’s a lovely person offstage but her slimy Ruby is the embodiment of all things wrong with local politics. And yet, Estes gives Ruby an unexpected vulnerability. She’s a rascal but there’s clearly a broken person in there that desperately craves validation from her peers.
Ashley Risteen as Tiffany is a force to be reckoned with. She gives us great physical comedy. She’s downright hilarious in her one-liners.
George carries the majority of the show (often with the always lovely Adler) with grace and calm in the face of such wild cake-related hardship. Hers isn’t the most flashy of roles but it is the most necessary.
There is a sweet, bumbling romance amidst the flour and sugar. I don’t want to reveal anything so I won’t go into detail but it reminded me of a fluffy summer Rom Com. The destined pair are awkward and adorable.
Cakewalk is a fun comedy with the same appeal as a romantic indie film about baked goods. Audience members will not be blown away by its revelations into the human psyche but they will have a lovely time meeting some unique characters. The cast does great work with their roles. Curran’s writing is subtle and funny. Cakewalk is honest fun.