Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Review - The Pumpkin Pie Show (Horse Trade Theater Group)

Review by Byrne Harrison
Photos by Cedar

Every once in a while I find out about a show that I never knew existed, but has been around for years. Once upon a time, it was Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. This time it is The Pumpkin Pie Show. Returning to New York for its tenth anniversary, The Pumpkin Pie Show makes me wish I'd known about it ten years ago.

The Pumpkin Pie Show is an evening of story telling. The latest incarnation features Clay McLeod Chapman and Hanna Cheek, two enthralling actors with a gift for telling a compelling story. The actors have prepared fourteen stories, all written by Chapman, any six of which will be performed in an evening. While this does make for a new and exciting show every night, it also makes it hard to review. Based on the six stories performed the night I saw it, and of course the fact that it is Halloween, the common theme of this version seems to be horror. This falls into roughly three categories: visceral, as in Chapman's look inside the mind of a returning veteran in Grand Marshal and Cheek's tale of a murder revealed in Bridesmaid; sly and humorous, Cheek's Overbite, about a woman with jaws of steel and the problems that can cause, or the absolute winner of the evening, Late Bloomer, a Lovecraftian look at sex ed; and emotional, as in Cheek's story of a young nurse dealing with the loss of war in The Suitor's Ward, or Chapman's look at the silver lining of Alzheimer's in Oldsmobile.

While Late Bloomer is my favorite of Chapman's stories, mostly because it allows him to delve into a breathlessly over-the-top prose, my overall favorite was the lovely and heart-breaking The Suitor's Ward. Anyone not moved by this tale of a nurse and the gentle way she provides comfort to mortally wounded soldiers must have a heart of stone.

The Pumpkin Pie Show has now closed, but when it returns, do yourself a favor and buy tickets early. The show routinely sells out, and next time, I'm bringing all my friends.

Stories written by Clay McLeod Chapman
Performances by Clay McLeod Chapman and Hanna Cheek

UNDER St. Marks
94 St. Marks Place

Closed 11/1