Tarragon Theatre continues strong with their Lies, Sex and What Comes Next season. And what does come next is the hilarious and dark Cake and Dirt from resident playwright Daniel MacIvor. This play throws the audience into the middle of a white, rich and privileged family dispute. Actually, it throws us into the middle of several disputes.
Riley is hanging out with her crazy (and highly intoxicated) family to celebrate her father Jeff’s birthday. However, petty disputes of jealousy break out between Jeff, his current wife and his ex-wife. Things escalate when Toronto Councilor Flip-flop shows up to the party and refuses to answer Jeff’s questions about the closing of the nearby park. Though set over a very short time, the action creates intrigue, mystery, and scandal, taking the audience through a loop along the way.
Daniel MacIvor’s writing techniques, combined with Amiel Gladstone’s directing, really shine through with this production. Over half of the play is set during Jeff’s birthday party, and the scene is set into chaotic realism. This is one of the best examples of life being mimicked on stage.
The characters cut each other off, talk over each other, and speak/behave with honest vulgarity. MacIvor’s script is enhanced tenfold by the incredible acting talents of the entire cast. With this dynamite combination, the audience truly feels like they are spying on a drunken, dysfunctional family gathering.
While the entirety of the cast put on fantastic performances, David Storch (Jeff) was the standout entertainment at the dinner party. His stumbling and drunken mumbling drove most of the comic situations throughout the play. On the other side of this was the incredibly talented Bethany Jillard (Riley) bringing a darker tone to the play. As the narrator, she was the driving force behind all crucial plot points.
As far as the production of this play goes, Tarragon once again proves just how versatile they are at designing sets. The last time I was at Tarragon, they had a static set of a hospital, whereas this production’s set switched between several different locations. The majority of the stage was simply flat and black. Minimalistic aspects were added to differentiate between locations. We would see a single kitchen island roll out and immediately know we were in Bryn’s kitchen, or see a single sapling tree and our brainwaves would switch to know we were in the soon-to-be-closed park.
If you are a fan of dark intrigue, sprinkled with a good touch of hilarious first world problems, then Cake and Dirt is definitely the play for you. If you’d prefer something a little more light-hearted, then I would advise skipping this one. All in all, this play is definitely a hit for Tarragon.
Cake and Dirt is playing at Tarragon Theatre until April 12. For more information visit http://tarragontheatre.com/show/cake-and-dirt/.
photo credit: Jeremie Warshafsky