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Larry Litt

"The Pumpkin Pie Show"

The Pumpkin Pie Show
Written by Clay McLeod Chapman
Performed by Hanna Cheek and Clay McLeod Chapman
UNDER St. Mark's Theater
94 St. Mark's Place,NYC
October 16th-November 1st ,2008
Thursday-Saturday at 8pm
Reviewed by Larry Litt October 25, 2008


I love energetic opening moments by actors who are proud of their self-created material. It's a sign that the audience is going to have a rollicking good time. But Clay McLeod Chapman and Hanna Cheek fooled me.They took me for an emotional ride on a storytelling roller coaster that I won't forget for a long time.

On this night Pumpkin Pie show recounted six stories of their fourteen story repertoire for their eager, admiring audience. First, in "Bridesmaid," we meet the very drunk sister of the bride at their wedding feast. Played with knowing experience by Hanna, she reveals sisterly love along with gruesome family secrets of over sexed teenage girls. If you've ever suspected high school Barbies of harboring more than normal desires, here's comedic character proof to fuel your nightmares.

Clay's premier offering of "Grand Marshall" takes us to the welcome home parade for a young returning Iraq war vet. This character has been explored by many writers and actors throughout history, however Clay's heightened acting makes his character's inner breakdown a truly sad, powerful moment in our own time.

Hanna matches Clay's intensity with the tale of a battlefield nurse emotionally committed to her damaged wards as she recounts the love affairs she keeps alive only to reinvigorate the life spirit dying in mortally wounded young soldiers.

Both these monologues show topical engagement and caring in Pumpkin Pie's material. These tragic, ironic characters moved me to recognize the risks these young actors are taking. If they weren't so brilliantly played it would be disaster.

"Late Bloomer" is Clay's silly take on a seventh grade sex education class from an H. P. Lovecraft fan's perspective. All I can say is I laughed because I saw that little boy living in my own history. So did the rest of the audience.

Hanna tries to be nice, harmless and romantic in "Overbite," but her character just gets too excited to control herself. It's a biting commentary on passion and fear of human contact. Fortunately, Hanna is only telling the story, not living it.

The devastating finale of this engrossing, witty evening is "Oldsmobile" a story we all know from our own family histories. Aging and romance never end in these endearing characters. The message is conflicting, thoughtful and relevant.

Hanna and Clay's theatrical conceit is to play off each other when choosing which monologue they'll perform for us. Their friendly, affectionate patter between solo stories remind us they have more in store than the six characters we saw tonight.

I highly recommend you get to Under St.Mark's early as the crowd was overwhelming. I haven't seen standing room in a long time. The Pumpkin Pie Show is well worth it.

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