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'The Cake' explores what happens when we deeply disagree with loved ones

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Bekah Brunstetter's play is about a conservative Christian baker who is asked to make a cake for a lesbian wedding — and one of the women is an old friend.

The plot of the new play, "The Cake," sounds a lot like a story you've heard before.

It's about a conservative Christian baker named Della who’s extremely conflicted when she is asked to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding.

Back when TV writer and playwright Bekah Brunstetter ("This is Us," "American Gods") started writing “The Cake,” there were several news stories about bakers refusing to make wedding cakes for gay couples.

Since then, the topic has become even more timely. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a discrimination case against a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple because of his religious objections to their marriage. 

But in Brunstetter's story, the baker and the couple aren't strangers. One of the brides, Jen, is an old family friend of Della's. 

"I think in situations such as the case that's going to the Supreme Court between the baker and the couple, in that case and in many other like it, these people don't know each other from Adam before they get thrust into this situation," Brunstetter says. "They're strangers and I think it's really easy to judge strangers and make assumptions about who they are as people. I think it's a lot more difficult when you are related to the person, when you're friends with the person, when you grew up with the person."

Brunstetter and actress Debra Jo Rupp, who plays Della, spoke with The Frame host John Horn about "The Cake."

Interview highlights:

Bekah Brunstetter on her inspiration for "The Cake":

I was aware of some of these cases of bakers not wanting to make cakes for gay weddings, but it wasn't inspired by any one of them in particular. It was more so inspired by the fact that I was seeing and hearing a lot of vitriol in the world towards conservative people. I come from a really loving, warm family that has conservative values and I was starting to feel really protective of them. But I also don't fully share all of their values, so I have this sort of split mind when it comes to a lot of issues. And I just saw an opportunity to write a play in which a conservative character is at the forefront and is not the enemy — and is, in fact, the hero.

Debra Jo Rupp on what it was that drew her to the role of Della:

I loved this play from the minute I read it. I read this play for a theater company in New York the week of the election and I was very, very upset. And this, as Bekah has said ... it was a way for me to look at the other side ... and maybe understand it a little bit, or at least delve into it a little bit.

Brunstetter on what the play says about listening to other people and trying to understand where they're coming from:

I think a lot of people find themselves in that situation where you're [living] your life and then you go home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, a wedding — whatever — and then here you are with your family members that you don't necessarily agree with. And I don't think that's talked about a lot. What those holidays and weddings and celebrations really are all about are conversations. And I feel like lately a lot of these family events have been ruined by what's going on in the country. I just think that there's a way to listen to each other, because especially when you're talking to somebody that you love, that you grew up with, that raised you, you need to listen to them. Just getting angry and throwing in the towel and slamming the door, for me at least, isn't an option.

"The Cake" is at The Echo Theater Company through Aug. 13.

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