A scene from ‘American Wee-Pie’

Lisa Dillman’s new play American Wee-Pie—which features gourmet cupcakes as the central metaphor—is a tale for our times. Or at the very least, Wee-Pie is a story for those who have had to reinvent themselves mid-life. Directed with a balance of humor and gravitas by Megan Carney, American Wee-Pie is a story of midlife ruts and the leap of faith it takes to hoist oneself out of them.

Dillman’s pointed, sometimes zany comedy centers on Zed (Kurt Brocker, in a performance of gentle, idiosyncratic charm), a soft-spoken, depressive textbook editor who sleepwalks through his joyless life. After returning to his hometown for his mother’s funeral, Zed has a chance (or perhaps fated) encounter with Linz (Jennifer Pompa), an exuberant blast from his high school past. Pompa’s Linz is a sparkplug of vivaciousness and enthusiasm to his quiet, anonymous cubicle drone. Linz, who owns an artisan bakery with her husband Pableu (Mark Ulrich), helps Zed and his equally dissatisfied sister Pam (Jane Baxter Miller, excellently portraying the bitter, pragmatic woman) get their groove back.

The ever-commanding Keith Kupferer is a scene-stealer, stepping into several supporting roles including the scooter-riding ghost of the lay-off victim, a “post-mortem real-estate” broker and a neighborly (if somewhat intrusive) mailman. But most of American Wee-Pie’s charms stem from Dillman’s dialogue and the understated ensemble.

American Wee-Pie continues through Feb. 16 at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge. For more information, rivendelltheatre.org

Catey Sullivan is Chicago magazine’s contributing theatre critic.


Photograph: Joe Mazza and Brave Lux