Salt Lake Acting Company’s production of “The Cake” is both heartwarming and thought-provoking. In a surprising twist for a play about homosexual marriage, this show is not nearly as progressive or provocative as many other SLAC productions. Instead, “The Cake” really delves into what happiness, love, and successful marriage look like and comes up with flaws and triumphs on all sides. SLAC is an equal opportunity theater dedicated to telling stories unseen on many main stages in a state like Utah. This production features interviews from local members of the LGBTQ community and promotes a panel to discuss equality and marriage. “The Cake” is an unabashed celebration of intimacy of all kinds (the intimacy director is Sarah Shippobotham), and the show holds quite a bit of humor alongside its frustration.
That frustration appears in the form of two women who are trying to get married in a southern red state where the locals are anything but welcoming. Jen (Carianne H. Jones) grew up in the south and wants nothing more than to fulfill her and her mama’s dreams of a beautiful belle wedding. Jen’s fiancée, Macy (Latoya Cameron), is a New York journalist and a skeptic at that, but she is dedicated to giving her bride the wedding of her dreams. Della (Betsy West) is like a mother to Jen — she is also the exact embodiment of a stereotypical southern baker, buttercream and all. Her bakery, Della’s Sweets, is portrayed onstage, and I must say, I have not seen a more delicious set.
Designer Shannon Robert has built impressive sets in the past, notably for SLAC’s “Harbur Gate,” but this time she outdid herself. Della’s Sweets is a scrumptious store with many hidden delights, much like its proprietor. The icing on the cake, literally, is the multitude of beautiful prop cakes originally designed for The Warehouse Theatre and the Contemporary American Theater Festival productions. These cakes are each unique, creative and look delicious. The costumes, by Spencer Potter, also fit perfectly into a picturesque world. The final costume choice of the show, specifically Macy and Della’s outfits, was inspired. Potter did an excellent job of dressing modern-day characters who look like their personalities and seem comfortable in their bodies.
“The Cake” was Justin Ivie’s main stage debut as a director and he knocked it out of the park. This show is delicate, funny, heartfelt, and heartwarming all at once. It is an honest look at relationships, both long and short term, without the rose colored glasses. There are consequences to the characters’ choices, but unlike Shakespeare, the story doesn’t have to end in marriage or in death. Sometimes the gray area is enough — and honestly, its always where creators should start. Go to see this show, and you will want cake and maybe mashed potatoes as well, but you will leave contemplative and hopeful. This is the kind of show that will make you want to hug your loved ones just a little bit closer that night and maybe call your mom.
“The Cake” runs through March 10 with shows Wednesday through Sunday and matinees on the weekends. Tickets are $31 and can be purchased on SLAC’s website. Lastly, the Utah premier opens one week before the New York premiere. How often do we get to beat New York to an amazing show?