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There’s just something funny about life in the South, says Cheryl Singer, director of Prince Edward Community Theatre’s latest comedy, The Red Velvet Cake War, which opens at Mount Tabor this weekend.

She might be talking about South Marysburgh. Some of the characters in this play, which is set in Sweet Gum, Texas, are all too familiar. Perhaps especially the overbearing Aunt LaMerle. “I have thought it over and I am right,” is a favourite line. She’s clearly never anything else.

The play is by James Hope Wooten, which is the pen name of three writers. The trio, who wrote for the hit comedy The Golden Girls, also wrote The Sweet Delilah Swim Club, another successful comedy PECT performed last year.

The story concerns “a big family reunion that goes really haywire,” Ms. Singer explains. It’s Uncle Aubrey’s 90th birthday, but Aunt LaMerle wants to cancel the celebration because one of the three Verdeen cousins, Gaynelle, has been brought up on charges of attempted murder — “blighting the good family name.”

But the cousins are adamant. Never mind “those few pesky charges.” Gaynelle defies her aunt, and insists the younger set can put on a party to remember, “better than that constipated snooze fest you host every year.”

And so starts the Cake War. In the heat of the moment, Gaynelle insists she can bake the best dern Red Velvet Cake Sweet Gum has ever seen. Aunt LaMerle says she can’t top hers. The recent divorcee, who has nothing else, bets her house on it. Aunt LaMerle, whose legendary red velvet has them crawling across the floor for more, laughs wickedly and takes her on.

Ms. Singer directed an excellent On Golden Pond last December. A few of those actors feature here, including Colleen Simm as Gaynelle Verdeen Bodeen and Tom Higginbottom as Newt Blaylock. Jenn Sills is a formidable Aunt LaMerle Mishew. The production introduces Emma Woodman — also known as the proprietor of the Bloomfield Beauty Company — as Cee Cee Windham.

The Red Velvet Cake War is the latest in a series of successful ensemble comedies for the theatre troupe, including 2 in the Aisle, 3 in the Van earlier this spring.

When I ask the director to point me to the stars, she laughs, “they’re all stars!” That’s the pleasure of this lively performance, which even in rehearsal, which is when I saw it, was witty and full of energy.

The Red Velvet Cake War opens at Mount Tabor on June 14. Get tickets.

Originally published in The Picton Gazette June 12, 2024

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