The Cake

by Bekah Brunstetter
Directed by Courtney O’Connor

Featuring:  Chelsea Diehl*, Karen MacDonald*, Kris Sidberry*, Fred Sullivan, Jr.*

Conflict collides with confection when Della, a traditional Southern baker, reunites with her deceased best friend’s daughter, Jen, in preparation for Jen’s wedding. Della is forced to question her strongly-held beliefs when she is asked to bake Jen’s dream wedding cake for her and her future wife. Questions of morals, judgment, and family swirl around them all in this heartfelt and deliciously funny new play.

The Cake contains strong language and scenes with partial nudity.  Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Content Advisory: partial nudity (equivalent to bathing suits), mature language and content


We discover Della, owner of Della’s Sweets in Winston, NC, decorating a cake and extolling the virtues of using real ingredients and following directions. The lights widen to reveal Macy, a young woman listening to Della’s instructions. As Macy begins to write some notes, Della realizes that she is not, in fact, there to interview her about her upcoming appearance on The Big American Bake-Off, the top-watched baking competition show on television. Della begins to dream about George, the handsome British judge, and imagines meeting him and being on the show. Macy interrupts and shares her belief that all of those shows are rigged, and that she objects to the fetishization of the food industry – and it makes her hungry. In an effort to connect with Macy, Della offers her a piece of cake, but Macy declines, citing her personal parameters around gluten. Della reveals how she believes that if she could make every person a cake with their name on it, a lot of problems would be solved. Macy challenges Della’s political and religious beliefs, and Della, feeling flustered, goes to check on a cake in the oven. 


As Macy allows herself to smell some cake, Jen arrives – with a large wedding binder and bags from a craft store in-hand. Jen excitedly asks Macy what kind of cake she wants for their wedding. They begin to argue about Jen’s desire to have a traditional wedding the way her mother would have wanted, and Macy agrees they will get the wedding cake from Della’s. Della reenters, and she and Jen immediately and happily reunite, almost forgetting that Macy is there and introducing her to Della as just a friend. It is revealed that Jen is getting married and when Della says that she cannot wait to hear all about him, Macy informs her that she is the one marrying Jen. Della pretends to be excited but it clearly uncomfortable by this, and tells them that October and fall are a busy time of year. After Jen and Macy depart, Della is pulled back into the Bake-Off world, where George asks her what she has done. She presents her devil’s food cake and states her belief that cake is not a sin but a reward for her good choices.  


Later that evening, Della and her husband, Tim, are in bed, watching TV. His hand rests casually on her breast as porn is heard coming from the TV. He tries to make conversation with her – telling her about his day and trying to “have a cuddle.” Declaring he will miss her while she is gone filming the show,  he tells her not to “go all Hollywood” on him and to “come back the same.” Della tells him Jen is in town and shares with him the news that she is getting married to a woman. Tim is confused by this – didn’t she have a boyfriend in college? She explains what happened in the bakery – how Jen asked her to make her wedding cake but she told her she couldn’t do it because she is too busy. Tim reminds Della that they cannot “pick and choose the Bible” and that while they can still pray for and love Jen, Della cannot make the cake. Della quietly murmurs that she will bake the cake if she wants to, and tried to push the image of Macy and Jen out of her mind. 


We then see Jen and Macy in bed after just having sex. Jen attempts to go sleep on the couch since her cousins made up the couch for her but Macy is deeply upset by this. It leads to Macy telling Jen about what a different person she is at home and how Della is wrong for not baking their wedding cake. Macy pushes Jen to change Della, and questions why they even need to get married there. Jen gets upset because it is where her mother wanted her to get married. Jen asks Macy to be respectful of the people down here to which Macy says that she doesn’t respect them. Jen replies that she is one of “these people,” leaves, and goes to sleep on the couch.


The next afternoon Della is constructing a red velvet cake and George visits her again, this time promising to “lick her up and down.” Jen walks in with a bag of Chick-Fil-A nuggets that she knows Della loves. As the two women catch up, Della asks Jen about how she and Macy met. Jen shares with Della her painful misunderstandings of sex when she was younger, and how her mother never gave her any guidance or information about it. Sex felt wrong for Jen, leading her to wonder if she was somehow “messed up.” But with Macy, sex for Jen feels right. While she understands how Della feels this is wrong, Jen is absolute in her love for Macy. When Jen asks Della what she thinks her mom would think of her relationship, Della honestly replies that she thinks it would break her mother’s heart. This upsets Jen and she runs to the bathroom just as Macy enters the bakery. Macy noticed that Jen had been crying and questions Della as to what she said to Jen that made her upset. The tension between Della and Macy escalates, with both doubling down on their beliefs. After demanding to know why she hates her, Macy tells Della that is she doesn’t want to be seen as a bigot, she needs to do something about it. 


George checks back in with Della, but instead of the announcer asking about her cake, he crudely asks about the lack of sex in her marriage  and calls her a bigot and an undesirable bitch. Della is shaken and runs out of the bakery. 

Tim arrives to a dark bakery, looking for a burst pipe Della has called him about. Della is revealed to be waiting for him, naked except for some buttercream. She begs him to lick it off of her. Tim tries, but his discomfort overwhelms him, and he demands Della get dressed. Della asks him why he refuses to be intimate with her, and demands that he listens to her. She speaks about a moment when she felt a longing for her college roommate, her on-going feelings of shame about her body, and her desire for the intimacy between them return. Tim confesses that his lack of ability to give them a child has made his urges “go away,” and that this is not the way to help him get them back. When Della demands to be loved, Tim pulls away, asks about dinner, and leaves. 


Jen confronts Macy about an article Macy has written and posted on-line about their experience with Della. Jen expresses how she feels split in two between her past and their life in Brooklyn. Macy declares that Jen’s mother instilled a shame in her that make Jen unable to stand her own voice. When Jen admits that she sometimes feels shame while kissing Macy, Macy packs up her bag and leaves. 


George gleefully announces the next challenge for Della: a confection with no sugar, gluten, or dairy, and one that is also morally sound. The phone rings and Della finds out that she has been disqualified from The Big American Bake-Off because of the article by Macy. Della sits, crushed, as Jen bursts into the bakery. Della explains that she loves Jen but that  her marrying Macy just doesn’t sit right with her. Jen, upset, states that if that’s the case then Della cannot be a part of her life anymore and leaves of the bakery.


Della goes home and enters her darkened bedroom. Tim asks what’s wrong and she explains that Jen does not want to be apart of her life anymore and that she got disqualified from The Big American Bake-Off. Tim suggests that she turns on the light and he can cheer her up. She turns on the light and we find Tim, naked except for some carefully placed mashed potatoes. (He couldn’t find any whipped cream.) He explains to Della that he thought he could at least try. Della, touched by his gesture, thanks him and they reaffirm and renew their love for each other. 


Six months later, Jen walks down the aisle towards her wedding.  The light come up on the bakery, and Della enters, dressed up in the colors of Jen and Macy’s wedding. There is a knock at the door and Macy enters the bakery. She asks Della to join them at the wedding reception but Della declines saying that she needs more time. Macy thanks her for baking the cake. Della explains that she didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but that she wanted them to have the cake: a beautiful pink lemonade cake on the bottom for Jen with a top tier of carrot cake for Jen’s mom. When Della points out that everything seems to have worked itself out, Macy explains that her and Jen almost called the wedding. Della points out that love is the harder choice. Macy apologizes that Della got disqualified from The Big American Bake-Off but Della explains that it wasn’t all bad because it made her business go up. Macy tells Della that when things are wrong, she has to say something. Della reminds her that things seemed wrong to her. Macy reiterated that they were wrong. Instead of continuing the disagreement, Della tastes the cake, and then invites Macy to do the same. As Macy allows herself to experience the pleasure of the cake, Della muses that this cake may have been her “great thing.” 

Scenic Design by Matt Whiton
Costume Design by Charles Schoonmaker**
Intimacy Director: Ted Hewlett
Original Music and Sound Design by Arshan Gailus**
Lighting Design by Aja Jackson
Assistant Director: Aliza Kenney
Dialect Coach:  Rebecca Schneebaum
Props Artisan and Cake Design: Lauren Corcuera
Production Stage Manager: Diane McLean
Assistant Stage Manager: Athena-Gwendolyn Baptiste
Season sponsored by Lee & Diana Humphrey, Joe Richard & Rene Morrissette in Memory of Rose Rocco and Yves Morrissette, and our corporate sponsor:

Production sponsored by Richard & Carol Daynard
Director Courtney O’Connor sponsored by Joe Richard

Costume Designer Charles Schoonmaker sponsored by Jo-An Heileman





Cast & Crew

Karen MacDonald* – Della

Karen MacDonald (Della) returns to the Lyric Stage having appeared as Molly Ivins in Red Hot Patriot. Recent credits include Escaped Alone (Gamm Theatre), Universe Rushing Apart (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company), Calendar Girls (Greater Boston Stage Company).  Regionally, she has also appeared at the Huntington Theatre, Trinity Rep, SpeakEasy Stage, New Rep, Gloucester Stage, Merrimack Rep, Portland Stage, Boston Playwrights Theatre, Boston Theatre Company, Sleeping Weazel, The Vineyard Playhouse, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Shakespeare and Co., and Berkshire Playwrights Lab. A Founding Company Member of the American Repertory Theatre, she appeared in 74 productions, including The Sea Gull, Mother Courage and her Children, No Exit.  On Broadway, she understudied and performed the role of Amanda Wingfield in John Tiffany’s revival of The Glass Menagerie. Nationally, she has performed at Hartford Stage, The Maltz Jupiter Theatre, The Alley Theatre and Berkeley Rep, among others.  She is the recipient of several IRNE Awards and Elliot Norton Awards for her performances. She received The Robert Brustein Award for Sustained Achievement  in The Theater and the Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence. She teaches at the Harvard Extension School and is a faculty member at Theater, Dance, and Media at Harvard.

Kris Sidberry* – Macy

Kris Sidberry* (Macy) is very happy to be back on the Lyric Stage! Last Seen in Intimate Apparel, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.  Boston Area Credits Include: School Girls; or, The African Mean GirlsSignificant OthePlay (SpeakEasy Stage), The Good NegroGrimm (Company One), Theater Espresso and The Freedom Trail. New York credits: All American Girls (off-Broadway, National African American Theater Festival). Now based in NYC, Kris is a founding member of the all-female experimental movement company, LAS. She has also worked on various film, TV, voiceover, and commercial projects, including Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit, Lifetime’s Web Of Lies, and HULU’s Castle Rock.  Training: B.F.A. in Theater Performance from the University of Evansville, Maggie Flanigan Studio Meisner Conservatory. She would like to thank her friends and family for their continued support.


Chelsea Diehl* – Jen

Chelsea Diehl* (Jen) is making her Lyric Stage debut. Some past favorite credits include: A Future Perfect (Speakeasy Stage), Where I Come From (Kentucky Repertory Theatre), Be A Good Little Widow (Davis Square Theatre), Portrait and a Dream (La Mama ETC), A Christmas Carol (The Hartford Stage), Dog Sees God, As You Like It, Essential Self Defense (Gurnet Theatre Project), Barefoot In The Park (Bad Habit Productions). Chelsea is a graduate from Emerson College and is the founder of My College Audition:




Fred Sullivan, Jr.* – Tim

Fred Sullivan, Jr. (Tim) is making his Lyric Stage debut. He is a resident artist for 14 seasons at the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. For CSC, Fred recently directed Cymbeline and has played Jacques (Norton award), Malvolio (Norton nomination), Capulet, Parolles, Bottom, Buckingham, and Gloucester. He is also a resident artist at the Gamm Theatre where he has directed 30 plays since 1996 and acted as Rothko in Red, Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale, Donny in American Buffalo and Potter/Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life. Fred was an acting company member at Trinity Rep in Providence for 35 seasons and acted in 178 productions there. Highlights included Falstaff, Harold Hill, James Tyrone, Jr., Oscar Madison, Scrooge, Joe Pitt, Captain Hook, Nick Bottom, Alfred Dolittle, Peer Gynt, Creon, Daddy Warbucks and Charles in Blithe Spirit (Norton award) and Walter Burns (His Girl Friday (IRNE award). Fred has acted regionally at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Berkeley Rep, Dallas Theatre Center, NJ Shakespeare and played Max Prince in Laughter on the 23rd Floor for Ocean State Theatre Company. He’s been on film in Vault, Spy Dog, Saving Christmas, Almost Mercy and on TV in Against the Law. Fred teaches acting at RISD and Gamm.


Bekah Brunstetter – Playwright

Courtney O’Connor*** – Director

Matt Whiton – Scenic Design

Charles Schoonmaker** – Costume Design

Ted Hewlett*** – Intimacy Director

Arshan Gailus** – Original Music and Sound Design

Aja Jackson – Lighting Design

Diane McLean* – Production Stage Manager

Athena-Gwendolwn Baptiste – Assistant Stage Manager

Aliza Kenney – Assistant Director

* denotes member of Actor’s Equity Association
** denotes member of United Scenic Artists (USA-Local 829)
*** denotes member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC)

Press & Reviews

When it comes to the things we believe, how much should we be willing to sacrifice to abide by the dogmas we’ve been handed and asked to swallow whole? When it comes to the people we love, how much do we dare surrender of the things that shape and clarify our personal identities? And how, how in God’s name can people expect to make a decent cake without the proper amount of butter? “The Cake” explores these themes, and more, with deft humor and emotionally devastating precision.
Digging Into ‘The Cake’ with Kris Sidberry | EDGE Media Network

Expert Direction by Courtney O’Connor. Well done…hysterically memorable moments. As Della ultimately proclaims, “you need cake!”
Lyric’s “Cake”: More than a Mere Trifle? | South Shore Critic

The versatile and reliably excellent MacDonald demonstrates again that she has few peers in Boston theater when it comes to traversing the territory from comedy to drama and back again — whether from play to play or, as in this case, within the same production.
Humor and humanity are the icing on ‘The Cake’ | The Boston Globe

“Call this a layered cake,” says Jared. “Rather than abide by the frequent black or white perception of people’s belief systems, ‘The Cake’ finds the nuance in complex human nature — making ‘The Cake’ absorbing, not to mention comedically delicious.”
Arts This Week | WGBH

With two powerhouse performances at its core, The Cake is elevated to something exceedingly special and totally unmissable. Chelsea Diehl brilliantly—and seemingly effortlessly—communicates Jen’s deep-seated pain. It’s a performance of a thousand quiet moments that add up to one of the most affecting I’ve seen all year.
Where There is Cake, There is Hope: The Cake at the Lyric Stage | DigBoston

Ticket Prices

Day Center Section Side Section
Wed Mat $53 $37
Wed/Thur/Fri $69 $49
Sat/Sun $75 $55

January 10 — February 9
3:00 pm

Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission
Box Office: 617-585-5678

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