Open: 06/05/10- Close: 06/27/10
Reviewed for TheaterOnline.com By: Patrick Garrigan
The year is 1999. Y2K signals the end of the world as we know it, Al Gore has graciously initiated the internet and the Republican Revolution is on the march.
On the right: Dana Dunnigan (Ramona Floyd), the charismatic right wing pundit and best selling author of the magniloquent tome, “Let Them Eat Cake: How the Free Market Can Spread Prosperity to Everyone.” And on the left: A militant, liberal B-Team conspires to take Ms. Dunnigan hostage. This squad, comprised of the revered Commandant (Arthur Aulisi), the feisty feminist (Erin Leigh Schmoyer), the polemist-at-large (Dan Shaked), and the twink-linguist (Samuel Adams) clumsily abduct the grande dame of the GOP, and spirit her away to their secret bunker where they work to re-educate her while hatching their plan for corporate chaos.
The plan? Use her kidnapping to manipulate the markets, cause a panic and make them all (three-quarters of) one million dollars! Much to the surprise of the group, including Dana, it works. During her captivity, we soon learn that the Commandant and Dana share a common biology. It is the exposition of this relationship which reveals that their political motivations have more to do with making “the old man proud” than it does an allegiance to the markets or Marx, resulting in surprising ideological conversions.
Felipe Ossa’s Cake is a sharp, funny romp through the gray area where sound bytes meet core political beliefs. For anyone who’s ever sat through a tear-filled Glen Beck monologue or a fiery Keith Olbermann commentary and thought, “are these guys for real?” Ossa provides a unique response that is even-handed and hysterical.
Rather than fit his characters into political archetypes that are rigid and tired, the players on both the left and the right find room for nuance, providing them the freedom to change in a way that’s thrilling to chart over the course of the evening. If one were to find fault in this script, it would only reside in the hope that play’s final moments might benefit from a more concise conclusion. By this point, we’ve enjoyed the ride and we’re ready to settle into the finale which was so painstakingly earned.
The ensemble for this production is top notch. Ramona Floyd’s Dana Dunnigan has a strong, bombastic presence that would make Papa Bear O’Reilly proud. In his role as the sibling/rival Commandant, Aulisi goes on a wonderful journey from statuesque guerrilla to the sole reason one can’t say the word “comeuppance” without smiling. As the three comrades, Schmoyer, Shaked and Adams all are given their moment to shine and do so with aplomb.
Leah Bonvissuto’s direction shows a real relish for the dialogue that unfolds. She orchestrates the evening beautifully, playing with tempos that keep the rhythm of Ossa’s script fast and funny, and yet has an assuredness that makes certain that thematic touch-points resonate. Accompanied by recognizable 90’s rock hits, the transitions are spunky and keep propelling the story forward.
Political junkies take note. This is a production that is incredibly relevant; especially given the nasty tone of the current political discourse. Cake brings these ideological opposites together and with a dose of humor illustrates that when you strip away the stagecraft and theoretical ambiguities, the essentials -love, family, sex and hope- are universal. It’s my hope that this production finds a future staging where it will receive all the trappings it deserves.
45 Bleecker Street Theater : 45 Bleecker Street