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Bake Off was one of ten performances offered by FemFest 2012 in partnership with the Manitoba Association of Playwrights. The theme focused on “Staging Identity.” What drew me to this particular show was the unique concept of five playwrights being given a list of five ingredients and writing a scene using all five ingredients. The challenge was to complete the script in two weeks. That is some challenge. At the completion of the performance the audience would vote for their favourite and the winner’s script would be showcased next year.
Five excellent actors were featured taking on different roles in the five presentations. The acting was quite impressive in grabbing and holding my attention even though the staging and set was threadbare. The actors had to hold on to the script because they only had 1½ hours to rehearse for each scene. Although it sometimes interfered with their ability to move freely, it did not detract from the excellence of the scripts and the performances.
In the first scene, “Ruined Surprises” by Marcia Johnson, Elizabeth Stephensen gave a compelling performance as Sonia, a pregnant mother (who didn’t know it), in her expressions of pain, love, anger and disappointment as her boyfriend, the father of the child, backed away from taking on the responsibility of his newborn son.
“Cakewalk” by Muriel Hogue shows us a grown-up daughter’s angst as she demands her family’s history from her resistant father, while there were great moments of humour in “My Frozen Heart” by Hannah Foulger.
“Harold and Vivien Entertain Guests” by Jessy Ardern, was riddled throughout the scene with humour through the characters’ actions, as well as the script. For example, when the doorbell rings Vivien says to Harold, “maybe it’s the Jesus people.”
And finally, “Launched” by Tyler White, was very entertaining as two sisters and a brother literally end up on the floor in a make-believe paint fight (each still clutching the script with one hand).
I enjoyed all the scenes and was quite in awe that the quality was so high, as well as the actors who had such little time to rehearse. In the end I voted for Harold and Vivien, although they were all a delight. They did indeed prove to be “like a dessert buffet with tasty treats and plenty of delightful surprises.”