By Clay McLeod Chapman, Music by Kyle Jarrow
Produced by FRIGID New York @ Horse Trade
Off Off Broadway, Plays
Runs through 10.28.17
UNDER St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place
by Adrienne Urbanski on 10.21.17
Hanna Cheek, Brian Silliman, Abe Goldfarb and Kate Hartman in Death to the Pumpkin Pie Show. Photo by Keila Fontanez.
BOTTOM LINE: Say goodbye to this long-running show by taking in one of their favorite zany stories from the past twenty years. Each show offers a strange and spooky tale told by comedically gifted actors.
I'm sad to say that in all the years I've lived in New York City I've never taken the time to see The Pumpkin Pie Show, the long-running Off Off Broadway series that has reappeared more or less annually for the past twenty years. Each time they've returned, it's been with a fresh, strange and spooky tale to spin, filling the month of October with seasonally fitting creepiness. Their finale production of Seasick made me instantly regret all the years I passed up opportunities to see this show.
Seasick features various characters on a commercial cruise ship, all affected by the horrors of a Norovirus outbreak on board. Midwestern families wait in line for the ship's endless buffet to gorge themselves again and again; when a customer finishes off their mountain of food, singers on staff jump out to praise them for joining "the clean plate club." Watching all of this is a snotty French chef (Abe Goldfarb), bitter that he has to spend his days cooking for gluttonous Americans. Infuriated, he leaves his excrement in the food to get revenge on the passengers for failing to appreciate the nuance and art of his gourmet cooking. As the guests gradually get infected, the ship becomes like a horror movie with scenes akin to a zombie outbreak.
With a very minimal set, each member of the cast uses the almost blank canvas to showcase their acting and storytelling abilities, tearing up the stage with their larger than life performances and cartoonish characters. Each performer is talented enough to elicit laughter with a single glance or a single word. Hanna Cheek (a longtime Pumpkin Pie vet) is particularly funny as an entertainment director determined to maintain a cheery atmosphere even as those around her are suffering from explosive diarrhea and bouts of vomiting. Abe Goldfarb gets lots of laughs as the frou frou French chef, while Katie Hartman spends most of her stage time as the manager of the ship's "Fun Zone," stuck defending it from sick children with super soakers of bleach. Brian Silliman shows a talent for physical comedy as a bumbling but determined father set on saving his kids from infection, and Clay McLeod Chapman, the creator of PPS, is amusingly creepy as a traumatized captain that once resorted to cannibalism to survive.
Not every show in Death to the Pumpkin Pie Show will be the same; the other nights showcase different favorite stories from its history, but each is sure to be hilarious and delightfully demented. I hope that Clay McLeod Chapman has plenty of other theatrical projects in the works, as his gift for comedic writing (and unusual story lines) is a rarity. Fans of the long-running show can even purchase a book at the theatre, anthologizing the best Pumpkin Pie Show stories. Take a trip to St. Marks Place and see the last few performances of the Pumpkin Pie Show, before it breathes its last.
(Death to the Pumpkin Pie Show plays at UNDER St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place, through October 28, 2017. The running time is one hour with no intermission. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8. Tickets are $20 and are available at horsetrade.info or by calling 1800-901-7173. For more information visit pumpkinpieshow.com.)
Death to the Pumpkin Pie Show is by Clay McLeod Chapman with music by Kyle Jarrow.
The cast is Clay McLeod Chapman, Hanna Cheek, Abe Goldfarb, Kate Hartman and Brian Silliman.