Veteran actor has a plateful in topical play, The Cake

In The Cake, Sarnia’s Lauren Solski (Jen) and Allison Virtue (Macy) play a gay couple who ask Ruth Francoeur (Della) to bake a cake for their wedding. Photo Credit: Shauna Nelles.

Cathy Dobson

It’s not every day a character as layered as The Cake’s Della comes along.

“I read the script for the first time and thought, ‘Oh, my God, Della is me, except for the homophobia,” says Sarnia’s Ruth Francoeur, cast as the lead in the upcoming Theatre Forty Two production of The Cake.

The Cake is a new play by playwright Bekah Brunstetter, one of the writers from the Emmy-nominated television hit This is Us.

Della is the high-spirited owner of Della’s Sweets, a bakery she runs in conservative North Carolina. For Della, love is best demonstrated through food.

She considers herself a Christian, raised to believe marriage should be strictly between men and women.

So, when Della’s lesbian goddaughter Jen, played by Lauren Solski, asks her to create a cake for her wedding to Macy (Allison Virtue), Della faces a personal crisis.

“It’s about how people are raised,” explains Francoeur. “Della knows nothing else and has certain feelings that she doesn’t want to deal with.”

Francoeur said she herself has never been homophobic.

“I do think everyone should be able to love who they want. Just love,” she said.

But in so many other ways she identifies closely with Della.

“I’m a foodie too. In fact, just like Della enters a baking competition, I entered CBC’s Great Canadian Baking Show in 2017. They called me up for the taping but I couldn’t go because I was in the middle of rehearsals in Sarnia.”

Francoeur has been involved in community theatre for decades, here and in Fort McMurray, Alberta

She met her husband Norm at Sarnia Little Theatre (now Theatre Sarnia) in the 1980s. When the Francoeur family moved to Fort McMurray she was involved in theatre there for 18 years.

“And the first thing I did when we returned to Sarnia was jump right back into theatre here. I’ve always felt so welcome by my theatre family.”

For all the dozens of characters she’s played, Francoeur rates Della in the top five.

“Della is such a complex person. What I love about her the most is the journey she takes and the soul searching she does.

“There are lots of plays about the gay couple but not about the Dellas.”

The Cake is a mix of drama and comedy. It promises some funny scenes as Della attempts to spice up her marriage to Tim (Jo Agocs) with a little frosting.

Carl Bruckman, the off-stage voice of the baking competition host, rounds out the five-member cast.

Francoeur said she hopes the play sparks conversation and leads to more compassion and an understanding “that we all put our pants on the same way.”

The Cake, she points out, is based on a real legal case in the U.S. It involved a southern baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple and went to the Supreme Court.

 

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: The Cake by playwright Bekah Brunstetter, directed by Henri Canino.

WHEN:  April 30 – May 3. Nightly at 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Theatre Forty Two. 900 Devine St.

TICKETS:  $20, available online at www.theatre42.com or Buyticketsat/T42.

Warning: Mature language and sexual content. Proceeds from the first performance to Sarnia Pride and Transgender Association.

The Arts Journal reflects Sarnia’s diverse cultural life.  Send your ideas to cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca.