Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 12, 2023

REVIEW: Silverthorne Theater, "The Cake"

Silverthorne Theater, Emily Dickinson Hall, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA
from June 9 - 17, 2023
by Shera Cohen

Perhaps the key word to describe this play is "change". Times change, people change, lessons change. Who changes, why change?

Is "The Cake" a comedy or tragedy? The audience learns something, sometimes a little bit profound, sometimes not. Enough to rethink the play's theme? Probably not. With its laundry list of contemporary themes and language, this might be a short-lived play. However, at its best, it could become a piece of literature which replicates the mores of 2023.

Character Jen, portrayed by Claudia Maurino, asks her mother's dear friend Della, owner of a bakery, to make her a cake for her wedding. Silverthorne found a major coup by casting Elizabeth Aspenlieder, whose name has been associated with Shakespeare & Company for decades, to portray the lead character Della. Della is humorous, doubtful, loving, and a bible-quoter. Della is dumbstruck when Jen informs her that she is marrying Macy

Yes, Macy is a girl, a black girl. Macy, played by Tahmie Der, is bold, forthright, and savvy to the new era, taking on the responsibility of instructing the others to realize that the world is changing, starting right there in Della's little bake shop.

Sam Samuels, essentially, the only male actor in the cast, makes wise use of his two scenes. He is Della's husband. He is plumber. That might say enough about Tim. But, no. Samuel's presents Tim's changes simultaneously as tender and funny.

The play's venue at Emily Dickinson Hall, Hampshire College, may be stocked with lights, stage levels, backstage needs, lots of parking, etc. Yet, this location was a poor choice to mount a play. The stage is spread across the entire floor with bedrooms as bookends to Della's shop. Bakery scenes were solid with audible vocals. Yet perhaps one-third of the scenes took place in the bedrooms. The sight lines were non-existent. I could not see any actor. Add to that, neither younger actor was audible, except to audience members seated in two rows alongside the bedroom set. I see no credit for set designer, which usually means that the director, Gina Kaufmann, took on double duty.

"The Cake" has so much potential, and some of it was present onstage at Hampshire College. There is still time for Silverthorne to reconfigure its set at the very least.

Note: Partial nudity should have been warned in Silverthorne's publicity.