We’re seeing a particularly intriguing trend emerging at this year’s Fringe: area burlesque performers and troupes trying their hand at more traditional narrative storytelling, while trying to maintain the energy and style of the burlesque format. Burlesque Classique is going the Shakespearean route with A Midsummer Night’s Burlesque, while performer Ché Monique’s Cake! goes meta with us: a Roshomon-esque look at one of her own performances gone disastrously wrong.
Cake!’s premise is tantalizing. Monique is a producer at Chocolate City Burlesque, a local troupe dedicated to celebrating burlesque performers of color, which is such a remarkably cool subculture to investigate in a play.
Specifically, Cake! concerns a particularly ambitious birthday performance Monique planned for herself, in which she, a woman of significant size, would climatically burst forth from a giant birthday cake on stage. That’s a deliciously theatrical image, loaded with social commentary, but it’s also one that Monique learns is extremely logistically challenging. The plot of Cake!, such that it is, recounts the damage the performance threatened to do to her company and professional reputation.
There’s a phenomenon common to reviewing Fringe shows, dealing with the tension between a show’s potential, what it could one day achieve, and its current state on the stage. Cake! is one of those shows where the star rating system breaks down for me. There are so many tantalizing ideas here that aren’t quite fully fleshed out yet, and the show could use some editing, but there are some moments of pure rebellious joy.
Running time: 1 hour
Details and tickets
The cast largely plays themselves, and the professionalism of the performers ranges from the refined to the sweetly amateur. “Amateur” here is used with absolute love and respect, as these journeyman performers lend the show a charming put-on-a-show energy that drives the heart of Fringe. Monique herself is an especially charismatic storyteller, she just needs to decide what style of show can best tell this theatrically ripe story.
At the moment it’s a mashup of direct address monologues, brief expository conversations, a couple of fun burlesque performances and songs by performers Sidalicious and Dainty Dandridge. I would suggest that would be best suited as a long-form storytelling piece, with burlesque bookends, but that’s just my humble opinion.
As for whether or not we will actually get to see the titular legendary cake is teased out nicely over the course of the show and will not be spoiled here. By and large Cake! is a lot of fun, and part of that fun lies is seeing its raw potential. I hope it gets developed further. I will also say that there are certain value adds to purchasing a ticket to Cake! and you should probably save room for dessert.
Cake!: By Ché Monique . Director: Corine Andrade . Reviewed by Ryan Taylor.