"Red Velvet Cake War" offers up Southern-fried humor

With the main character addicted to whipped cream and cake being eaten by all the characters on stage, the set for "The Red Velvet Cake War" is quickly becoming a messy place, said director of the comedy Cathe Hall-Payne.

"This is a sticky play," joked Payne, who said they often hear a "sss" sound when the actors plop down on the sofa and lean against the pillow covering the can of whipped cream.

"The Red Velvet Cake War," a production Payne calls "a really good Southern comedy," opens on Thursday, and show times and dates are as follows: 8 p.m. on Oct. 13-15 and Oct. 20-22; and 3 p.m. on Oct. 16 and 23.

Presented by the New Depot Players, "Red Velvet" is being performed at the Center Street Arts black box theater, 910 Center Street in Olde Town Conyers. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $16 for students and seniors.

Set in the town of Sweetgum, Texas, "Red Velvet" is the story of three cousins -- Gaynelle, Peaches and Jimmy Wyvette -- who get into a tangle with their Aunt La Merle about who can make the best red velvet cake. Though La Merle is supposed to be the red velvet cake queen, Gaynelle challenges her and wagers her house in a bet that she'll make the best cake.

"All chaos breaks loose because the other cousins say 'Why, you can't beat the aunt's cake,'" said Payne.

A resident of Tucker, Payne said she's delighted to be directing her first play for the New Depot Players.

Payne first became familiar with the stage at age 6 when she played the Dormouse in a production of "Alice in Wonderland."

"I was hooked ever since. It was something I could not get out of my blood," said Payne.

"Theatre is my addiction, my hobby. If I'm not in theater, I start to wonder where I am. It keeps me sane, or insane, depending on the day."

Payne's theater experience spans decades.

She's performed and directed for such companies as Actor's Express Theatre in Atlanta, the Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville, Theatre Decatur and OnStage Atlanta Theatre, for which she's worked steady the last five years.

Payne met Jay Tryall, president of the New Depot Players, at OnStage Atlanta and the two hatched the idea of Payne directing, "Red Velvet."

"Southern folks like Southern plays," said Payne. "If you're trying to make money and do a show, it's a good bet."

"Red Velvet" features several New Depot Players veteran performers including Amber Vansant McCullough as Gaynelle, Amy LeCates as Peaches, Connie Davis as Jimmie Wyvette, Tom Harrison as Aubrey Verdeen, Scott Mills as Newt Blaylock and Bobbie Elzey as La Merle.

Payne said she's enjoying working with the New Depot Players, who "consistently do really good work" and she is especially impressed with the black box theater, located in the Conyers-Rockdale Council for the Arts building at 910 Center St..

"The Arts Council is beautiful and you're so lucky to have it because people everywhere are losing their spaces," said Payne. "I don't know what you have to do to keep it, but keep it."