Due Diligence

"Cake": A Play About Free Markets And Ideological Warfare

I highly recommend Felipe Ossa’s Off-Off-Broadway play Cake, which debuted Saturday June 5th at the 45 Bleecker Street theaters in New York City and will show there over the next 3 weeks. Cake is a side-splitting farce about contemporary ideologues, market manipulation and the fragility of political alliances. It’s 1999, year of WTO riots and an over-inflated dot-com stock market, and Dana Dunnigan, the free-market-touting right-wing pundit du jour, and a rising star on the talk show circuit, has developed some dangerous enemies--a small, hapless band of self-styled left-wing revolutionaries who are determined to take her down. Treacho, a despondent and unemployed extremist in his late 40s, is the leader to three recruits: a quick-tongued, brainy girl in combat boots with a thing for development economics, and a pair of young gay lovers. One is madly in love with his political theory books; the other seems to want to seduce everything in sight, himself included. Together, they kidnap Dunnigan in a hilarious scene of high camp and slapstick violence. And then the story takes some surprising twists. Treacho has a plan, but he also has a secret. And Dunnigan has a few tricks up the sleeve of her well-tailored suit. Ultimately, alliances shift abruptly, twice.

The 1-hour and 35-minute play races along without a hiccup, the dialogue pops riotously, and an excellent soundtrack infuses the play with the kind of over-stimulated quality that perfectly describes life in the age of the Internets. Ossa, who has a background in emerging markets finance, manages to make economics and arcane political theory highly entertaining, even sexy. His characters scream with personality, except perhaps Treacho, who is subued and shadowy and difficult to figure out. Dunnigan, played by Ramona Floyd, is the star of the show--convincingly cutting, cunning, ridiculous, and, somehow, ultimately likeable.

Ossa's previous play, Monetizing Emma, about a pair of bankers who try to securitize the future earnings of straight-A high school students, packaging them into bonds for investors, won the award for Outstanding Playwrighting in the 2009 Planet Connections Festivity. (Full disclosure: Felipe Ossa is a friend of mine.) For tickets, go here.

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