The Union Jack flags! The fancy fascinators! The foreign festivities! If you were one of the 29.2 million Americans who witnessed Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s vows, you may be suffering from post-royal wedding depression now that the viewing tea parties have ended and the overseas streaming has strum.
Fortunately there’s another milestone marriage to witness (least ways, on stage) from Rivendell Theatre Ensemble (RTE), Chicagoland’s sole equity theater dedicated to producing original plays by and about women. In the Midwest premiere of “The Cake,” Emmy-nominated producer and writer of NBC’s popular drama “This Is Us” Bekah Brunstetter looks at gay marriage—an issue that, for some citizens, seems as extraordinary as a biracial American divorcée marrying a prince three years her junior and sixth-in-line to the throne.
Yet Brunstetter, who has also written for MTV and ABC, didn’t gain inspiration from the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Instead, she found motivation closer to home with Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, the case debates whether a creative business may refuse to offer services, such as making a cake, for a same-sex couple’s wedding ceremony.
Focusing less on a legal level and more on a personal one, “The Cake” follows Jen and her lesbian fiancée in New York. Jen is from a small town in North Carolina where the two plan to marry. They also plan to have Della make their wedding cake. Although not as large as the royal couple’s 500-egg/200-lemon cake, it’s bound to be just as satisfying since Della was both a contestant on the “Great American Baking Show” and best friend to Jen’s late mother.
But Della (played by Jeff Award winner and RTE Artistic Director and Co-Founder Tara Mallen) is caught off guard when she learns there’s no groom. She’ll have to crack more than a few eggs to bake a cake that forces her to re-assess both her religious beliefs and marital reality.
RTE Co-Founder Keith Kupferer, RTE Ensemble Member Krystel McNeil and Tuckie White round out the cast under the direction of Lauren Shouse, who serves as artistic associate and literary manager at Chicago’s Northlight Theatre. The play also features scenic design by Arnel Sancianco, lighting design by Cat Wilson, sound design by Shannon Marie O’Neill, properties design by Danielle Meyerscough and costume design by RTE member Janice Pytel.
“The Cake” performs through June 2 at Chicago’s Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 5779 N. Ridge Ave. Unlike the royal wedding, which cost $45 million, general seating is a mere $38 (discounted rates apply to students, seniors, veterans and active military). Five seats per performance can be purchased for a “pay what you can” fee based on a first-come, first-served basis. Free parking is also available in the Senn High School parking lot, behind the school off Thorndale Avenue.
To learn more, visit www.RivendellTheatre.org.
Photo of Krystel McNeil (left) and Tuckie White by Michael Brosilow