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Cake: When All Else Fails, Eat It (Planet Connections 2010)

by Stephen Tortora-Lee on June 24, 2010

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Marie Antoinette is famous for the saying, “Let them eat cake!”

Whether she actually said it or not doesn’t really matter in the face of history or the minds of the people whose rumor-mill worked overtime and managed to get her head in the guillotine anyway.

Cake (written by Felipe Ossa and directed by Leah Bonvissuto) helps us to imagine what would happen approximately 200 years later if  - instead of a monarch – we get someone like Dana Dunnigan (Ramona Floyd) who lives on the conservative right and has a radio talk show where her celebrity and the power of her notoriety among her detractors very well might lead to her beheading too.  It’s the glorification by an adoring fan-base, determined to save her,  that helps keep her around.

We enter the story as Dana replies to people calling into her radio show. Dana seems to have a barb for all – friend and foe alike. We get the impression that, to her, it’s more important to be notorious than well-liked.  Not to mention the fact that she always knows how right she is about everything. Regardless of whether people love her or hate her, she seems in her element and in control.

Dana believes all the wrong things for all the right reasons and aggressively grates against all of our revolutionaries-in-training: Emily Richardson (played by Erin Leigh Schmoyer), William Devita (Dan Shaked) and John Mulcahey (Samuel Adams) among others.

Cake is about a similar transformation as that of Alice In Wonderland who ate cake and was able to then leave the purgatory of the bottom of the rabbit hole – finally able to enter Wonderland itself.   Throughout Cake Dana’s path follows a similar coarse as she finds herself wanting to actually do something in the world rather than just continuing to be the pundit she has always been, at the end after she falls through her own rabbit hole of being abducted.

Ramona Floyd, Samuel Adams, Dan Shaked, & Erin Leigh Schmoyer

Ramona Floyd, Samuel Adams, Dan Shaked, & Erin Leigh Schmoyer

On the opposite side of the fence, but with a similar journey,  Emily and her cohorts also change from being caricatures of the standard “socialist proletariat revolutionary” wannabe that can be found on any college campus into true adventurers ready to take their special talents and make a difference.

First we meet Emily, who tells us she goes into Corporate America with her camouflage of a smart pant suit and blouse, and that her training as an actress has always stopped anyone from believing she was anything else than what she appeared.  “It’s what I do.”she says.  She has a strong dislike for Dana which makes her personally invested to lead the kidnapping of Dana for the plans of her group.  Schmoyer as Emily artfully acts a character within a character able to convince Dana as well as the audience that she really is “one of them”.

Then we meet John Mulcahey (Samuel Adams) who is trying to compile all the philosophies of all the great (but terribly obscure) revolutionary writers of the 20th century into his “late, great” polemic. Late because “All the great {socialist} writers wrote their first polemics by the time they were 22…and I’m 24″. Great because he believes by doing such large amounts of time researching the obscure foreign books of as many of the brightest social theorists as possible, he could produce such a compelling argument against the old system that no one of any sense would be able to resist it and…as Marx would say the “State will fall away” at last.

And William Devita (Dan Shaked) seems at first simple: he wants John, and more importantly he wants John to want him in return.“I just want to jump your bones…Texts for sex has always been our contract”. He reads and translates aloud (“Always first in the mother tongue,” John insists) page after page and book after book of those obscure texts in Spanish, in French, in Italian, in Portuguese. William is definitely a polyglot among other things, but doesn’t seem to have the marketable skills as John and Emily have. Clearly William is the symbol of the noble proletariat, the everyman that everyone can aspire to be. He always smooths things over by being the least extreme but most capable of the bunch.

Leading this band of activists is a man referred to as “Che”(real name: Patrick Strife played by Arthur Aulisi) who is not as together as he seems.  His style of leadership is actually quite subtle, and he skillfully gets what he wants by making people think that what he is getting them to do was their idea all along.  It is he who comes up with the plan to abduct Dana Dunnigan . . . we find out the “why” later on in the play and it doesn’t quite match up with what we’ve been lead to believe.

In the end everything turns out for the “better” for everyone, just not what any of the characters would have expected at the beginning.

The twists and turns of this play will keep you riveted not just to find out what is coming next, but how it will happen.  Set in the 1990s, scene changes and climactic scenes are often accompanied by driving house music.  That and the unique flavor of those times at the end of the millennium are artfully captured by both the writer Felipe Ossa as well as the set designer (Dan Soule), stage manager (Megan Jupin) and fight choreographer (Ian Roettger) and others work together to make a really exciting play that will make you want to talk about the good old days “before the bubble burst” if that’s your cup of tea — or your piece of cake.


A Felipe Ossa production benefiting The Resource Foundation
Written by Felipe Ossa
Directed by Leah Bonvissuto
Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes, no intermission.
Venue: Green Room Theatre, Theatres at 45 Bleecker Street (downstairs), 45 Bleecker Street
Performance dates
Sat 6/5 @ 3pm
Sun 6/13 @ 8:30pm
Thurs 6/17 @ 4pm
Sat 6/19 @ 3pm
Tues 6/22 @ 8pm
Sun 6/27 @ 8:30pm
Purchase tickets here.
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