The Women’s Theatre Festival’s production of Licked Cupcake, playing now through Sunday, July 23rd, at the Sonorous Road Theatre & Film Studio in Raleigh, is a brand-new collaborative effort conceived by author Cori Vella and director Johannah Maynard Edwards and created by the members of the cast. On Thursday, July 13th, we had the privilege of attending the opening night of this show, which is a phenomenon that adds new meaning to the phrase “shop local.” It is also an excellent addition to Women’s Theatre Festival 2017.
Alternately funny, touching, and thought-provoking, Licked Cupcake explores the depths to which organized religion both shapes and stunts the growth of an individual’s identity. Using as metaphor the question “Who wants a cupcake that someone else has licked?” the play delves specifically into the authoritarian limits placed on human sexuality by social and religious mores. But it also examines wider aspects of the role that religion plays in defining our lives.
Framed within the device of an “Monica’s Magic Support Group,” the play examines the experiences of several young women through monologue, song, dance, and performance art. Like all good art, the play connects the general to the specific and the specific to the general. We get glimpses of the demons faced by young women of several faiths, including Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Conservative Protestant, and Gnostic. Throughout, we share in their pains and their eventual triumphs.
This play focuses on the experiences of young women, but it is easy to universalize the messages contained in it and to identify with each of the characters. One interesting choice: there is one non-binary cast member, and their membership in the group is handled quite well.
We were impressed by the variety of dance numbers. Sometimes, the ensemble performed tightly choreographed, synchronized numbers; other times, there was a free-for-all “do-your-own-thing” aspect.
Original music written for this work was well-performed. Some voices are not as strong as others, so some of the lyrics were lost to us, but the loss was not great.
The show references recurring images from The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. And the play itself seems to embrace its own messages of “make your own rules” and “forge your own identity.” Indeed, we could almost hear echoes of Polonius from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any [person].”
All of the actors shine in their own way, and they all deserve to be named: Cheryl Edson, Cori Vella, Denver Skye Vaughn, Emily Tomasik, Glenn Greggs, Jackie Markham, Katy Werlin, Kristen Dewey, Monica McNamara, Reghan Paynter, and Sarah Feld.
The Department of Picky-Picky has a few nits to pick: (1) We noted some shortcomings in the lighting, but we feel that these will be ironed out in subsequent performances. (2) The air conditioning drowned out the performers at times. Once again, this issue will probably correct itself. (3) Among the myriad of wall-hangings on the upstage wall, there is a sentence in which a letter is missing from one of the words. DoPP wondered about its significance and whether or not someone would at some point insert the missing letter. (4) Finally: the show could profit from being shortened by about 20 minutes, but we would be hard-pressed to suggest specific cuts.
All-in-all, this show is well-conceived and well-executed. In the curtain speech, the director acknowledged that she feels it is a work in progress with an eye on taking it to Edinburgh, Scotland, next year. We feel honored to have been present at this stage in its progress, and we heartily recommend it.
Note: Along with the show’s program, you will be handed a pink sheet of paper. It is a preface to the play, including a glossary of terms that are referred to in the dialogue. READ IT! We found that having done so greatly enhanced our experience.
SECOND OPINION: July 11th Chapel Hill, NC WUNC/91.5 FM interview with director Johannah Maynard Edwards and actors Cheryl Edson, Kristen Dewey, and Denver Skye Vaughn, conducted by Frank Stasio for “The State of Things”: http://wunc.org/post/what-s-licked-cupcake-new-play-examines-purity-sexuality-and-religion.
The Women’s Theatre Festival presents LICKED CUPCAKE at 8 p.m. July 15, 3 p.m. July 16, 8 p.m. July 20-22, and 3 p.m. July 23 at Sonorous Road Theatre & Film Studio in The Royal Bakery Building, 3801 Hillsborough St., Suite 113, Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $18.59 with service fee.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mKocosWT3A.
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.