OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: World premiere cupcake play in Chicago a sweet ticket

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-01-15T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: World premiere cupcake play in Chicago a sweet ticketPhilip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Cupcakes have been riding the sweet, promotional wave of popularity for a few years.

So it's been long overdue for a stage story touting the time line of this bakery bite-size sweet tooth success.

Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Chicago's only Equity theater devoted to the work of women theater artists, is hosting the world premiere of "American Wee-Pie," as the second production in its 2012-2013 schedule tagged as "Season of Reinvention."

The production reunites RTE Resident Playwright Lisa Dillman and director RTE member Megan Carney and it runs until Feb. 16.

Dillman's telling of "American Wee-Pie" is a two-hour, one intermission tale of a middle-aged textbook editor, played as a sad and lost soul by actor Kurt Brocker. He returns to his hometown for a funeral and finds himself on an unexpected journey of self-reinvention for new life possibilities connecting his past with the present and the future. Told with comedy and warmth, it tackles topics like recession, career second acts, and what press materials describe as "the sometimes life-altering wonder of a small good thing."

The play was originally commissioned by and developed with the Goodman Theatre as part of the theater's inaugural Playwrights Unit in 2011, and was later presented as part of Philadelphia's prestigious PlayPenn Conference and in public staged readings at theaters around the country.

The talented cast includes RTE members Keith Kupferer, also a Goodman Theatre favorite, who in this case, plays multiple roles, ranging from a slick cemetery plot salesman to a nice guy mailman and office cubicle neighborly annoyance. Jane Baxter Miller is top notch playing the lead's lovingly abrasive sister Pam and Jennifer Pompa is prized at always optimistic and smiling Linz, whose small-town cupcake business is set to change the world. Mark Ulrich plays her silly baker husband Pableu.

Regina Garcia has built a dreamy set, while Jessica Carson lights the way and Josh Horvath captures a variety of sounds. Since a parade of ornately decorated cupcakes are in the spotlight, Joanna Iwanicka is the confection wiz behind the creamy creations, along with the many other fun props that dominate the stage.

Since 1994, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble (RTE) has been devoted to who they describe as "theater's forgotten majority: women." It's billed as "Chicago's only professional woman-centered theater company to develop relevant new stories in a fertile environment."

Tickets to "American Wee-Pie," staged at Rivendell's new performance venue, 5779 N. Ridge, on Chicago's northside area in the Edgewater neighborhood, are $30. The schedule is 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays. FYI: RivendellTheatre.org or (773) 334-7728. Free parking is available in the Senn High School parking lot (located a block and a half from the theater behind the school off Thorndale Avenue). There is limited paid and free street parking in the area.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

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