Kenmore theater company As If is commencing its second-ever season with an adaptation of “The Cake,” a dramedy from “This is Us” writer Bekah Brunstetter.
The play, which debuted in 2017, is about a North Carolina-based baker named Della who is set to compete on a baking-competition reality show. As she’s preparing for her TV spot, conservative Christian Della’s belief system is tested when her late best friend’s daughter, who is a lesbian, asks her to prepare a cake for her impending wedding. Della is dubious about the ask, quickly prioritizing her religiously guided morality over her loyalty to her friend. But then she begins to seriously mull over her ideologies.
Amy Gentry, As If’s managing director and star of the play, said she first learned about “The Cake” through a friend who had been doing it in Richmond, Va.
“She had said, ‘Oh, I wish you lived here — it would be such a great show for you,’” Gentry said.
Gentry did some digging, read the play and thought to herself that it would be perfect for As If, which, since forming, has strived to put on shows that are comic but also emotionally compelling. As If soon secured the rights; Kenmore’s take on Brunstetter’s work will be the first time the show has been done in Washington.
“It’s really just kind of catching gold a little bit across the country — it hasn’t been done that much yet,” Gentry said. “I think it will start to be.”
As If artistic director and director of “The Cake,” Cindy Giese French, said that like “This is Us,” the play is “a perfect blend of comedy and drama.”
“When we read this show, that’s exactly what came out,” Giese French said, adding “It’s the question of, What do you do when somebody you love disagrees with how you live? I think that’s kind of universal… One of my favorite things about this play is that it doesn’t wrap it up all nice and neat in a bow. You have a little bend, but not a break, from your belief.”
As If is still relatively green in Kenmore, having formed in 2019. In the last year, As If put on two main stage shows and a short play festival — all of which Gentry said received “incredible responses.”
Gentry said that it was exciting to find, for still being new, community members coming out in spades to audition for “The Cake,” which is only a four-person play.
There are noticeable differences in beginning a new theater season as a fledgling company versus as a somewhat established one, as noted by Gentry and Giese French.
“I think we can take more risks,” Giese French said. “And [“The Cake”] is a risky show. We do have an adult content warning… It’s not something where you would bring your 9-year-old show to — it’s more adult content. Coming in on the second season, the first season was really important to us to establish trust with the audience — that if we’re going to take on content, we do it respectfully and we do it intelligently, and research what we needed to research. Going into the second one…hopefully we’ve established some trust.”
Giese French added, “This is a subject matter that births conversations.”
“Hopefully [we] keep getting more people coming up, more people seeing Kenmore as a little more of a destination for the arts,” Gentry said.
Gentry talked about “The Cake” in relation to current cultural divisiveness.
“I want it to be something where it opens up a conversation on people who don’t believe the way you do are not the enemy — that we do have the ability to see other sides, and even change,” she said. “I think right now we just fight each other so much that we can’t see the real story behind peoples’ beliefs. A lot of the time, we’re just not willing to even let some light in to see other sides… I think one of the beautiful things about this play is that nobody is really villainized.”
Gentry said that in addition to “The Cake,” As If is mapping out July’s second “Kenmore Quickies” (i.e., short play festival) event.
Giese French, in an exclusive to the Reporter, shared that for its fall show, As If will be doing an adaptation of “The Foreigner,” a two-act farce selected because the company wanted to put on “the funniest comedy it could find.”
It will be debuting in November. It was intentional, Giese French said, to make sure the company was putting on a comedy rather than a drama around election time.
As If is continuing to offer dance classes and free monologue workshops, and working on getting together playwriting classes and workshops, too.
“We’re trying to really keep a presence [in Kenmore], and keeping things moving with the company,” Gentry said.
“The Cake” is running March 19 through April 5 at the Kenmore Community Club, on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. For more information about the show, go to As If Theatre’s website (https://bit.ly/3bX7g9W).