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All Cake, No File – The Actors' Gang – Los Angeles Theater Review




picture - All Cake, No FileTheater Review

by Jake McDonald 

published June 19, 2010 


All Cake, No File: The Johnny Cash Prison Tribute Comedy Cooking Show/Concert

now playing in Los Angeles at The Actors' Gang at The Ivy Substation  

through July 31 


“The Bible was written a long time ago in case y’all didn’t know it.”  So Jewell Rae Jeffers (Donna Joe Thorndale, also the show’s writer), in her ingenuous Southern Belle accent, informs her audience while whisking some eggs in All Cake, No File: The Johnny Cash Prison Tribute Comedy Cooking Show/Concert.   This mouthful of a title alone, with as many disparate ingredients as the production has unleavened punch lines, makes one wonder just how any director (in this case Shira Piven) will unite them into something that we might call Theater. 


picture - All Cake, No FileSo it is with a sigh of relief that one encounters the simple set that orients the audience.  A high chain-linked prison-like fence divides the stage in two and faces the audience at a 90 degree angle.  On the right side, we see a modern cooking-show kitchen with shiny stainless steel tables, upon which rest red shiny mixing bowls, a bright shiny new mixer, a vase of red roses, a bottle of bright red capped cooking spray, a red box of Dunkin Hines Cake Mix, etc. On the left side of the fence stand the mikes, guitars and drum set for the band named With a Bible And A Gun. If you look closely, you might notice a staircase behind the main set that leads up to a cat walk running the length of the back of the stage and the entire right side.  A pleasing amuse bouche of primarily black, chrome, and vibrant reds, the set successfully whets the appetite for what we assume will be a theatrical relationship between the clearly delineated comedy cooking show and the Cash Tribute Band (who wear all black, of course). 


picture - All Cake, No FileAnd unfortunately, herein lies no rub.  Other than when Jeffers throws a plastic sandwich bag of confectioner's sugar over the fence and the band picks it up thinking it might be a white powder of another substance (hmm?), it is only the show’s prison guard,  Officer Putney (April Fitzsimmons), that links the opposing sides of the fence.  Walking her beat on the cat walk hovering above and her occasional (mostly silly) reprimands of the band and Jeffers below (who is instructed not to roam too much in the kitchen, for example) are not enough to create anything terribly theatrical or interesting.  So the audience is left with a comedy cooking show (recently pulled off the air, within the show's conceit) with jokes as boxed as its ingredients: “…I’m not promoting any products y’all, but Dunkin Hines Cake mix is the best cake mix…..” and a spirited Johnny Cash cover band that plays two sets of just three songs each (for the dramatic occasions of the batter mixing and the cake baking).  Meanwhile, Jeffers replaces the Dunkin Hines crack with PAM and other products to tell that joke at least four times, as she does with other recycled one-liners: “Was it Jesus or Bob Dylan who said “You’re gonna have to serve somebody?”  Just substitute Bob Dylan for songwriters X, Y and Z, add water, and you’ve got a whole cookie sheet's worth of that joke!


Jeffers does tell us some startling facts about the California State Prison System, and in more than one way, the show will likely increase your appreciation for doing time.  Apparently, inmates at the Cal Rehabilitation Center in Norco endured this performance, too.  Though, for them and for us, it is the six Cash cover songs, the fact that some of the evening’s proceeds go to a worthy not-for-profit serving California inmates, and the quite yummy cake served after the show that are its true just desserts.


jakemcdonald @


photos by Jean-Louis Darville


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