Through Sunday, July 23
Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh

In a week in which women in the local improv comedy scene spoke out against sexual harassment, the comic drama Licked Cupcake has a far too timely message: it’s already hard enough for women to come of age before sexual harassment or assault is added to the mix. A sensitive, savvy script devised by the actors, Cori Vella, and director Johanna Maynard Edwards plunges us into a women’s support groupone with better production values than most, thanks to the lighting and audio cues conveniently provided by its leader, Magic Monica (Monica McNamara).

Though the text gently mocks support-group conventions, the ten women repeatedly hit pay dirt in frank, funny, and confessional narratives in which sex and spirituality, for better and worse, go hand in hand. Vella’s character, Molly, recalls her disenchantment with the sex education she was subjected to as a Mormon preparing to receive her faith’s “patriarchal blessing.” Kristin Dewey’s character relives her Catholic guilt, and Evie (Katy Werlin) is frustrated when remembering repeatedly foiled attempts at a bat mitzvah. A lesbian high schooler, Eli (Emily Tomasik), and a take-no-prisoners eighth grader, Briar Rose (Reaghan Paynter), add vivid stories to the set.

But further work is needed before a planned trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival next year. The script needs editing to trim a two-and-a-half hour run time, and not all the characters are adequately defined; we left knowing little more about Gale (Glenn Greggs) than we did at the start. Plus, a series of blue-lit movement tableaux didn’t clearly communicate their message. Still, the women’s warm, aching stories form the strong and beating heart of this production. We need to hear them, particularly now.Byron Woods