For a light confection about the life- affirming world of a small-town bakery, American Wee-Pie has a surprisingly dismal set. Designed by Andrea Bryn Bush, it's a study in gray, with gray polka dots on the walls, gray wood paneling, and two framed gray pictures—one appears to be a pencil drawing of flowers in a funeral urn, the other a cupcake whose gray dome of frosting looks like a cold volcano covered in ash. But they fit the mood of our sad-sack hero, Zed (a charming Evan Whitfield), a textbook editor who's returned to his small hometown on the event of his mother's death.
Shortly after arriving, he is saved from wandering out into traffic by an old high-school acquaintance named Linz (Tracy Leigh), who is a model of vivaciousness: pink socks, bright bows, and garish makeup. She merrily informs him of all their classmates who have died—one by Russian roulette in Iraq, another by "cancer of the tear duct or something"—and how happy she is with her "hubby," a French cupcake visionary named Pableu (David Goldstein). It turns out that Zed has an uncanny set of taste buds, and soon he's learning to bake.
Lisa Dillman's characters are cousins of Sarah Ruhl's—mildly oversize versions of themselves, bordering on cutesy (even Zed's perpetually exasperated sister and their sleazy graveyard-plot salesman have a dash of whimsy), living in a bright, Richard Scarry–esque world that's almost magical-realist but not quite. Director Anita Montgomery keeps them bouncing through the sweet, insubstantial plot like a pack of merry bumper cars. (Wee-Pie is great for parents, aunts, or adolescent nieces and nephews.) Like A Great Wilderness—reviewed here—the play is about characters trying to figure out who they really are. No spoiler alert is necessary to reveal that it ends with a cherry on top.