This play’s war is over baking the best red velvet cake

pseligson@newsobserver.comMay 12, 2014 

  • Want to go?

    What: “The Red Velvet Cake War,” a comedy.

    When: 8 p.m. May 16-17, 3 p.m. May 18 and 8 p.m. May 23-24.

    Where: The Hut at the corner of Front and Market streets in downtown Smithfield.

    How much: $13 in advance, $15 at the door.

    Reservations: 919-934-1873.

This comedic family feud includes a cake competition, a psychiatric evaluation and attempted (and alleged) vehicular assault.

For its 40th season, the Neuse Little Theatre chose all comedies, and the last is “The Red Velvet Cake War.”

In the show, Gaynelle Verdeen Bodeen blacks out once she discovers her husband has been cheating on her. Next thing she knows, she’s driven her minivan through the front of the mistress’ double-wide trailer. Gaynelle eventually becomes mired in a baking competition for the deed of her home.

The comedy takes place on a Texas backdrop filled with the characters you’d expect to see in a dysfunctional family and small town. The show opens May 16.

“It’s a very Southern comedy,” said Meta Toole, director. “It’s not a farce, but it’s close. It’s very silly, slap-sticky type stuff.”

No one is hurt in the double-wide incident, and Gaynelle gets off with just probation on condition she pass a psyche evaluation. Her two cousins decide the best way to help her pass is to show that Gaynelle has a loving and stable family. But their Aunt, LaMerle Verdeen, thinks Gaynelle is a disgrace and calls off a family reunion to keep attention away from the Verdeens.

The cousins decide Gaynelle will host the family reunion herself, whether she wants to or not. Meanwhile, in a moment of anger, Gaynelle bets her aunt that she can bake the best red velvet cake in town.

All Gaynelle has to her name is her home, and only after that’s on the line does she realize that everyone in town loves her aunt’s red velvet cake.

The play unfolds as opposing and strong personalities clash: one cousin is the best in Texas at applying makeup to the deceased and helping them look their best in death; the other is pursuing a very recent widower. All the while, Aunt LaMerle has come to think much of the family has fallen below the status of the Verdeen family name.

“You know someone whose exactly like every one of these characters,” said Nancy Gibbs, who plays Gaynelle. “They’re not necessarily stereotypes, not at all; we try not to do that because that’s insulting to Southerners.

“But you do know a person like every single person on this stage, whether it’s in your own family or someone you know in someone else’s. It’s just an hour and half, two hours of fun. It’s one mishap, one ridiculous concept after another.”

Gibbs said the humor circles around preparing for the reunion and everything that goes on as the cousins try to make the best of worsening situations. “It’s just all the mishaps that happen,” she said. “There are three cousins trying to get the house ready, avoid being thrown in jail, making the best red velvet cake and really showing up this Aunt LaMerle. And standing up for the young generation of the family.”

Despite all the mishaps, the show underscores the value of family, Gibbs said. People will walk away knowing “that no matter how bad things seem, if you stick together with your family or your friends, you can accomplish anything, despite the odds against you,” she said.

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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