On the cover of its programme theBlyth Festival lets you know exactly what it offers: Live, Original, Canadian,Theatre. That is admirable truth in advertising. The Blyth Festival is in its47th season and that alone is an admirable achievement.
This year the Festival offers seven productions, two of them world premieres. Colleen Curran’s Cakewalkis listed as an encore but the play had its premiere at the Festival in 1984 soit is very much a Blyth play.
Director Kelli Fox describes itas a “deliciously silly comedy” and she is spot on. The play takes place in asmall town where the residents are having a festival to celebrate Canada Day.One of the events is a cake contest and the first prize is a trip to Paris. Theplay is set in the community hall where a few of the cake-making contestantsare gathered. We hear the music, announcements and commotion of the festiveactivities outside.
The comedy is built around fivecontestants and the daughter of one of them who are interesting and just plainfunny. Leigh (Rachel Jones) is an attractive and decent teacher who has adistinctive position in society that proves to be problematic – she is a nun.She will face conflicting situations that are awkward and amusing.
The snooty Augusta (CarolineGillis) is the mother of the about-to-be-married Tiffany (Lucy Hill) and isputting the wedding cake in the contest. Tiffany is a tennis-playing spoiledbimbo who is getting married next day and she does not want her wedding cake inthe contest. Lock up the cake, lock up Tiffany, lock up one of the othercontestants in the handy closet.
Martha (Rebecca Auerbach) playsbaseball and she comes to the fair in her team uniform because the game wasdelayed. She gets barbs about her attire but she gives back as much as shetakes. We also have the self-righteous, bitchy and nasty Girl Scout den motherRuby (Catherine Fitch. She is scheming and dishonest, and will do anything towin.
On the nice side of the spectrumwe have Taylor (Nathan Howe), an archeologist, a decent guy and a klutz. He isthe only male contestant and he is entering the Tut Coconut Cake but he hasother issues to contend with. He has a serious reaction to Leigh. He can’t makeit up a few steps without stumbling or falling and he wants to tell Leigh howhe feels about her but she does not want to hear it because she is alreadyspoken for – to the convent.
Howe is a master of physical comedyand he and Jones produce some wonderful comedy as we watch their romanceblossom.
There are enough complications tokeep the plot going in high and the higher gear as we wonder what will happennext and laughing heartily much of the time. Kelli Fox of Shaw and StratfordFestivals fame has changed gears herself and gone into directing and does asuperb job of handling the cast and comedy with a light touch. The cast iswonderfully responsive to the comedy and the audience responded withappreciation.
The action takes place on asingle set - a room in the community centre with several doors, a stairwell anda closet. Set Designer Laura Gardner gives us the flavour of every communitycenter we have ever seen.
Oh, yes. The cake contest. Everycontestant has a cogent reason and desire for wanting to win. In the end thecontest is resolved quite satisfactorily. Tiffany probably marrieswhat’s-his-name and we have no doubts about the future happiness of Leigh andTaylor.
The winning cake was made by…..go see the play.
Cakewalkby CollenCurran continues until August 10, 2019 at the Blyth Memorial Hall, Blyth,Ontario, blythfestival.com