“The Cake” Demonstrates Struggle Between Traditions & Morals
By: Samiha Charles
This Spring, the LGBTQ Resource Center took a trip to the Manhattan Theater Club to see the play “The Cake,” written by Bekah Brunstetter, who is also the writer of the drama-comedy “This Is Us.”
Actress Debra Jo Rupp from “That 70’s Show” stars as Della, a southern conservative Christian woman that prides herself on her values. Her infamous bakery, Della’s Bakery in North Carolina goes under fire after denying her services to bake her lesbian goddaughter’s wedding cake.
Della begins to question her traditional values and morals and jeopardizes her bakery’s reputation in the process. The play centers around whether services should be provided or denied to all people regardless of their agenda, or whether personal values should alter whom services should be provided to.
When Della’s goddaughter Jen comes back to the quaint town of Winston-Salem in North Carolina, she surprises her with the news that she is about to marry her lesbian lover Macy and would like her to make their wedding cake. Della, who is a rather old-fashioned Christian, refuses as she feels that it goes against her religious beliefs.
As a result, not only does her business start to receive bad publicity but she also becomes barred from her lifelong goal of making it to the “Great American Baking Show.” Throughout the play, Della slowly begins to understand that love conquers all regardless of gender, sex or race.
In the end, though Della doesn’t completely agree with the couple, she ends up making the cake for them anyways after some reflection, despite their differences.
Della’s character is more than just the bubbly and vivacious baker with a knack for some quality cakes, as she displays acts of bigotry that can be considered prejudice to some extent. However, her character seems more palatable than her Trump supporting conservative husband Tim.
He sees things from a traditional perspective and may be one of the underlying issues as to why his relationship with Della is more one sided than equal.
Della feels that he didn’t make her feel like he loved her anymore much less even want to touch her. She says that there’d be times when she’d go to stores or the bank and just feel naked, “ I’d become aware of my own body, of every inch of it and I’ll feel ashamed of it,” she tells him though much of this shame is reflected on her opinion of Jen’s relationship with Macy.
The two stars of the show were the lesbian couple Jen and Macy. Jen, played by Genevieve Angelson, was born in North Carolina, and carries some of the same traditional characteristics as her North Carolina counterparts. She’s sensitive and tries to avoid conflict any way she can by remaining passive, especially when people comment on her hometown and origins.
Macy, played by Marinda Anderson is a polar opposite, she’s an extreme liberal who’s character similarly mirrors American society. She’s the only black actress in the play and she appears to be the strongest voice out of all the other characters. Troubled by her past with weight, race and acceptance of her own preferences, Macy was molded into the Brooklyn journalist who doesn’t take bigotry or prejudice lightly.
After the show, audience members got to ask the cast members questions about their characters and gained insight about the backstory and production.
The play was influenced by a similar Supreme Court case in 2015 when baker Jack Phillips of The Masterpiece Bakery in Lakewood, Colorado refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, because it went against his religious beliefs.
When I asked about whether their characters resonated with our society, Marinda Anderson responded, “Yeah, I do, what’s great about Macy is that she has to say what’s wrong at the time that she knows when it wrong… I think what’s so important about this play is that we need to listen more to each other.” She adds “It’s so easy to dismiss an argument and dismiss a character because of what they’re saying when you should lean in a little bit more and really (understand) what are they saying and how can we find common ground?”
Tim also responded saying “Anybody who wants to propose a law that limits the rights of gay people, I will fight them until the end of my days. However, not all of them wear MAGA hats and they’re not all animals. They are people who have real feelings and they think they live in fly over country.”
Our society feeds off opinions and especially loves feeding off of negativity. In this day and age, we’re becoming less empathetic of other groups and are so caught up with our own feelings and beliefs that we often forget how it affects the other person.