Cupcakes are ubiquitous. After a renaissance sparked by Magnolia Bakery in the city, these delectable confections have become one of the most coveted desserts. At times, it seems like cupcakes are poised to conquer the world. When viewed through the lens of C.J. Ehrlich and Philip J. Kaplan’s new play, “The Cupcake Conspiracy,” this observation does not seem like an exaggeration. One March eve, chuckling could be heard emanating from the theater at the Chappaqua Library. Guests at a benefit for the Friends of the Chappaqua Library were treated to a staged reading of “The Cupcake Conspiracy.” During the introduction, playwright and Chappaqua resident Cheryl Ehrlich described the piece as a work in progress.
At the opening of the first scene, evidence of mixed signals is center stage. Max, one half of a potential couple, thinks he is participating in a dating ritual as a result of an internet conversation. The other half, Natasha, leads him on in a manner none too subtle, while dropping hints that romance may not be her ultimate motive. While dining at a hotdog stand emblazoned with the slogan: “Death to America, hotdogs and knish,” the two begin a discussion about gifts. In a totally authentic Russian accent, Natasha proclaims: “The most unselfish gift is your own life.” This reference to suicide bombers, combined with comments like “…splicing information like you’re waterboarding me,” make it clear that terrorism is Natasha’s aim.
Notes of humor balance the serious nature of terrorism throughout the play. Suzie, expertly played by Denise Bessette, laments the sorry state of her relationship. Her line, “and even if you do fly coach in the bedroom, I could have tried to upgrade you to first class,” elicited much laughter. Although she had urged her lover to take more risks in order to renew the spark in their romance, when she perceived that he was partaking in terrorist activities, she changed her tune and told him that she had recommended that he “join a book club, not a sleeper cell.”
The audience gave the performance rave reviews. “It’s a delightful production, whimsical. Engaging characters and entertaining,” was Catharine Trongone’s take on the evening. Doc Davis, an actor himself, appreciated the high quality of the players. “They’re not amateurs. They have the expertise,” he noted. Toward the end, a glimmer of hope surfaces between Suzie and Max, a couple who had been seeing a separation counselor.
After being entrapped in a terrorist plot, they acquire a new perspective. “Being held hostage does wonders for a relationship.” Suzie relates. “Terrorism is easy but marriage is complicated,” she concludes. –Sarah Ellen Berman