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Riverside’s The Cake brings faith and love into the recipe

Riverside’s current production asks the question of when love should conflict with one’s faith.

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Sarah Stortz, Arts Reporter

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Mixed with butter and sugar and frosted with a religious crisis, The Cake is being served at Riverside Theater through Sept. 30, the first production of the 2018-19 season.

The story centers on a woman named Della who runs a bakery called Della’s Sweets, which features various types of desserts. Outside of her culinary duties, Della is a devoted Christian and maintains a strong relationship with her church.

One day, Della is visited by her goddaughter, Jen, who asks her to bake a cake for her upcoming wedding. Unbeknown to Della, Jen is a lesbian and will marry another woman. Once she realizes the truth, Della is conflicted between her faith and her relationship with Jen.

Patrick DuLaney, the director of the production, said the play was intended to raise political questions in the audience, especially in regard to the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, which the Supreme Court ruled on June 4.

“It’s the right conversation to have,” DuLaney said.

Mary Sullivan, the actor who portrays Della, said she’s been involved in Riverside from 1997 to 2010, with this show being her first production in the theater in eight years.

“It’s always exciting to be in a new play that’s very current and very topical,” she said.

Sullivan described her character as someone who is heavily devoted to her craft as well as her ideology. Despite her beliefs against Jen’s lifestyle, Della loves her as a daughter.

“Della is having a bit of a struggle trying to change but also being resistant to the changes,” Sullivan said. “I’ve may have had moment where I’ve been faced with a change that I didn’t want to do. That’s what you do with acting, you try to find an emotional truth even if the circumstances aren’t exactly the same.”

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Sullivan said she is highly impressed with the script, calling it contemporary, entertaining, and well-written.

“It’s a really fine example of what modern American theater is and can be,” she said.

DuLaney gave special praise to the script for not relying heavily on stereotypes but rather, providing humor through recognition.

“[The characters are] all fully fleshed, real people whom you care about, even if you disagree with them,” he said, regarding the characters. “You fight with them even if you disagree with their beliefs.”

Cara Clonch Viner, who portrays Jen, described her character as the glue that holds both sides together.

“[The play] does a pretty job being fair to all opinions and looking at them equally and openly,” she said.

The script does not have a black-and-white conflict, it rather realistically examines the various struggles the characters have internally.

That’s what you do with acting, you try to find an emotional truth even if the circumstances aren’t exactly the same.”

— Mary Sullivan

“The question I think the play asks is regardless of which end of the spectrum you’re on, can you take a step toward the center, away from yourself, and still remain who you are?” DuLaney said.

Throughout the rehearsal process, he said, it was challenging to maintain a light tone while working with a difficult topic.

“It’s so easy, as in real life, to go negative,” DuLaney said.

Viner said she encourages everyone to see the show, finding value in the discussions the play provides.

“Everybody, no matter what their opinion is, can get something out of it,” she said.

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About the Writer
Sarah Stortz, Arts Reporter
Email: [email protected] Twitter: _ssto Sarah Stortz is currently a digital producer and arts reporter at the DI. She is currently a junior at the University of Iowa from Waterloo, IA. She has been at the DI since January of 2017, previously working as a news reporter during her freshman year. She worked in the arts section...
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