How does that old adage go? “Life imitates art,” or is it “Art imitates life.” In the case of Bekah Brunstetter’s Off Broadway hit comedy “The Cake,” opening Dec. 5 at the Arsht Center in Miami, it’s definitely the latter, as she literally ripped the premise from the headlines.
Life is sweet for Della. Her North Carolina bakery is legendary and she’s just been cast on her favorite television baking competition. When Jen, her late best friend’s daughter, comes home from New York with the news she’s getting married, it seems only natural Della should make her wedding cake. But then, Della learns Jen’s fiancé is actually a fiancée, and Della’s fear of change becomes the main ingredient threatening to spoil everyone’s happily ever after.
Yes, this is a story about a baker with “deeply held religious beliefs” who must make a life-changing decision when confronted with a moral dilemma.
“That court case involved two gay men in Colorado and this play takes place in North Carolina with a lesbian couple,” noted Margaret Ledford, artistic director of City Theatre. “It personalizes the story in a very different way.”
Ledford, a Carbonell Award-winner, pointed out that in Brunstetter’s telling, the story takes a very different twist.
“This play has so much heart and humanity. It presents both sides of the issue in a compelling way. In this polarizing world of memes, as it were, where you’re right or wrong, hopefully, we can remember how much more alike we are than different,” she said.
Ledford tapped Irene Adjan, also a veteran, award-winning South Florida veteran, for the role of Della. While Adjan may not share the conflicted personal convictions of her character, she has one important skill to prepare her for the role. She is a culinary school trained pastry chef.
“What are the odds?” she asked, in between rehearsals.
Adjan added, “The characters are consistent, and I like that Della is willing to try, which is a big theme in the play. We’ve talked in rehearsal that we’re in a climate right now where we don’t have conversations. You’re right or I’m right. Everything is black and white. If you don’t agree with me, you’re my enemy. This play does a nice job of forcing these characters to talk to each other.”
Surprisingly, Brunstetter’s play came under some criticism from audiences in New York, who, like their right-wing counterparts, objected to the characters’ willingness to consider both sides of the issue.
“Because (Brunstetter) has written it this way, I’ll be interested to see how people on both sides of this issue (in Miami) will recognize people on both sides. I feel like every one of these people in the play are genuinely good people, they’re just products of their upbringing and environment. That’s what makes the play so good,” she said.
City Theatre of Miami presents the southeast regional premiere of Bekah Brunstetter’s “The Cake,” Dec. 5 – 22 in the Carnival Studio Theatre at the Arsht Center in Miami. Tickets start at $45 at ArshtCenter.org.