Just “Desserts” in a Delicious Comedy
Playwright Collen Curran first wrote Cakewalk for the Blyth Festival in 1984. Then it made the rounds of area theatres, and I was fortunate enough to see it in 1985 at the old Victoria Playhouse in Petrolia. So it was interesting to see its return 35 years later.
I was concerned that the comedy would not have withstood the test of time. Let’s face it; TV sitcoms like Three’s Company or Who’s the Boss, so popular in 1984, just don’t seem as funny in 2019.
But, no worries! The hilarious comedy in Cakewalk still stands. Curran can take pride in the fact that her story has that necessary element of truth in it that makes the comedy timeless. Her characters are recognizable and genuinely funny without being caricatures. The laughs come one on top of the next in the witty dialogue. Credit goes to director Kelli Fox for ensuring the comedic timing is spot on, and no laughs are missed. (Interesting tidbit: Kelli is the sister of famous Canadian actor Michael J. Fox.)
Set in 1984 in small town Canada, Cakewalk tells the story of Canada Day celebrations which include a cake contest. Participants bring their best home-baked cakes, and parade through the fairgrounds for all to see them, then they are judged later. The grand prize is big – a trip to Paris – so competitors are keen. A young nun/schoolteacher is entering her cake in hopes of winning the trip for one of the Sisters in her order. Her best friend who owns a café is also competing, presumably to draw attention to her business. A mother is exhibiting her daughter’s wedding cake, in her effort to get a little attention for herself, much to the dizzy daughter’s chagrin. Then there’s a stumbling young man, eager to venture into the women’s domain. But to everyone’s dismay, they come up against Ruby, the scout master who has also entered the contest and gone overboard on ensuring everyone else sticks to every minuscule detail of the rules. The comedy is created in the clash of characters.
Rachel Jones, new to the Blyth roster, is wonderful as the nun. She shows the young women’s confident exterior, but still lets the audience know her character is filled with doubts on the inside. Catherine Fitch, a Blyth favourite, is a perfect foil for Jones’ sweet and kindly nun. Fitch hilariously portrays the rather nasty rule enforcer, who is constantly seeking ways to stir up trouble. Rebecca Auerbach, also popular with Blyth audiences, creates laughter as the baseball-playing café owner.
Lucy Hill is a hilarious tennis player and bride-to-be, while Caroline Gillis is her mother who just wants some recognition. Nathan Howe excels at physical comedy, playing the archeologist who trips over his own feet. Another cast member is listed, Robert King, who we hear but never see.
Curran says that she didn’t know that the term cakewalk meant an easy win. She just wanted to write a funny play about a small-town baking competition. Yet the joke is in the title – it wasn’t an easy win for anyone. Each character comes to a personal realization during the cakewalk. But you’ll have to come to the Blyth Festival to see who takes the cake in the laugh-out-loud funny Cakewalk.
Cakewalk continues in repertory at the Blyth Festival until August 10. Call 519-523-9300 / 1-877-862-5984 or go to www.blythfestival.com for tickets.
Photo: Caroline Gillis, Rachel Jones, Nathan Howe, Catherine Fitch, Lucy Hill, with Rebecca Auerbach in front. Photo by Terry Manzo.
By Colleen Curran
Directed by Kelli Fox
Performed by Rebecca Auerbach, Catherine Fitch, Caroline Gillis, Lucy Hill, Nathan Howe, Rachel Jones, Robert King.
Blyth Festival, Blyth
June 26 to August 10, 2019
Reviewed by Mary Alderson