Review by Beatrice Williams-Rude
“Everybody Gets Cake” reflects inspired madness. It’s mostly mime—think Chaplin (minus the social conscience), Harpo Marx, Marcel Marceau, Danny Kaye, the silent movies of the ’20s. As I attempt to describe this work by Joel Jeske, Danny Gardner and Brent McBeth, I’m reminded of a conversation I overheard as a child: my parents trying to describe Hellzapoppin to our neighbors.
Mr. Mink kept asking “What’s the subject matter? Who are the characters?” while Mrs. Mink wanted to know “What makes it funny?” My father started to laugh each time he tried to recount the moments while my usually articulate mother was trying futilely to explain.
“Everybody Gets Cake” is really a series of physically expressed one-liners. They’re too short to be called blackouts, or skits.
The energetic performers, who are also the creators, are altogether brilliant—versatile quick-change magicians. They assume new characters in the blink of an eye and there’s no doubt who those characters are. Gen. MacArthur, for example. Ben Model, the splendid pianist, who really sets the scene, also appears onstage several times, although there is no stage; it’s as though the piece were being performed in one’s living room, or kitchen. The audience is within touching distance of the actors. Model is also credited with the “original score,” but there were repeated strains of Satie.
There are about 45 characters portrayed by the creative trio. On Jan. 24, one of the creator-performers, Danny Gardner, will be succeeded by Ryan Kasprzak. Included in the list of characters are Guard, Tourists, Curator, Old Man, Orderly (particularly well played by Brent McBeth), a Pair of Black Gloved Hands, House Manager, Serial Killer, Guy With Kitten, Steve, the Theater Cow, TV Voiceover, Prisoner, Prison Guard, Hans, the Sneaky Nazi, Albert Einstein, Noted Shakespearean Actor, Mother Theresa, and so forth. Not listed, curiously, was the “cabaret singer” Bubbles, who looked sort of like Dietrich, but whose voice was that of the La Vie en Rose lady, Edith Piaf.
All this in about an hour and fifteen minutes.
The show begins slowly: the doors open, a stern guard is overseer, disco-type lights keep revolving, Ben Model is at the piano playing lounge music as members of the audience filter in and choose their seats. Theater C is tiny and there are no bad choices. The cake is prominently displayed and is well guarded. Just before show-time the guard pulls out a remote and activates a security system protecting the cake, then signals to Ben that he’s going on a break. Ben changes the mood by playing Satie. From then on the frenetic piece proceeds at an ever-accelerating pace.
Splendid direction is by Mark Lonergan. Choreography is by Danny Gardner and Brent McBeth. Cheers for sound designer Mike Dobson and set and lighting designer Maruti Evans.
So how does one characterize “Everybody Gets Cake”? Zany. Sometimes juvenile. Inventive. Sometimes cruel. And laugh-out-loud hilarious.
And yes, everybody gets cake!
“Everybody Gets Cake” will run through Feb. 8, at 59E59 Theater C. It should be noted that the theater complex is expertly run. People are steered to the correct theater—A, B, or C, most efficiently and the staff is uncommonly courteous, considerate and friendly.
*Photos: Jim R. Moore