Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Cake

Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill
Review by Carole C. Sullivan

Also see Dean's reviews of Shakespeare in Hollywood and Newsies

Belle Allen and Sara Werner Hoskins
Photo by Andy Mayo
For The Cake, playwright Bekah Brunstetter has taken her experiences of growing up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and combined them with her television writing for the STARZ series "American Gods" and NBC's "This Is Us." First produced in 2017, The Cake seems to combine the tropes of the old South with a hip West Coast vibe, creating an amalgam of the contemporary issues of our times.┬áIt is, seemingly, as they say, "ripped from the headlines" and yet it is not—very topical and yet somehow old fashioned.

The Aux Dog Theatre production has a lot going for it. The strong cast headed by veteran actress Joni L. Lloyd brings professional-level acting to the tiny theatre. Ms. Lloyd plays baker Della Brady, whose life revolves around her cakes and her ambition to be a contestant on "The Great American Baking Show." When her deceased best friend's daughter Jen, played by Sara Werner Hoskins, returns home with her fiancée Macy, actress Belle Allen, for their wedding, all does not go well. Macy is a very liberal, black female journalist and Della is a churchgoing traditional woman who is not a supporter of same sex marriage.

Will Della bake the wedding cake for this couple? What will these people learn about themselves as they ponder one of the cultural/moral questions of our time?

The script tries to tackle so many contemporary issues that it is overladen with clichés of modern problems. Homophobia, sexual dysfunction, and the dangers of sugar are just some of the topics covered. More focus and less trying to include an examination of so many social issues would have made the script stronger. The Cake is advertised as a "comedy confection," but it is more of a dramedy. Real issues and real feelings are explored in dialogue and monologues that include almost slapstick antics. Clever one-liners pepper the script. The play should make this dissonance poignant, but somehow it doesn't quite come together.

The actors handle the monologues well, but they rarely seem to connect with each other. Same-sex lovers Macy and Jen have trouble making eye contact and physical contact. Della and her husband, in bed, are supposed to go from frigid to warm, but their body language remains essentially similar. This is a play about finding intimacy with someone who understands and loves you. I did not quite believe the relationships in these two couples.

The physical elements of the play are serviceable. The setting of the bakery is well thought out, but the bedroom scenes feature a largish bed that is hoisted in and out in a cumbersome way that nearly stops the action of the play in its tracks. And many shorter scenes contribute to a disjointed overall effect.

In general, this Southwest premiere of The Cake is a worthy enterprise, and Aux Dog is to be commended for the contemporary plays it chooses. Though it could have been much better with genuine connections among the actors and better technical aspects, the 90-minute production is, overall, enjoyable, thought provoking, and time well spent.

The Cake, through August 11, 2019, at Aux Dog Theatre Nob Hill, 3011-3015 Monte Vista Blvd. NE, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm. For tickets and information, visit, call 917-710-4870 (cell 505-596-0607), or visit the box office.

The Cast: Joni L. Lloyd, Sara Werner Hoskins, Belle Allen, Paul Meeker and Matt Puett