The Pumpkin Pie Show is an annual evening of spooky fun performed in a terrifyingly tiny theater space located in the dark netherrealm of Under Saint Marks, a theater located deep within the unholy bowels of the Lower East Side. When the stars are right and Halloween is upon us this gloomy basement hosts an anthology of funny and scary monologues written by Clay Mcleod Chapman. Every year offers a different group of sketches and year’s show has five new tales to terrify audiences.
Most of the sketches involve a Tales From The Crypt sort of plot twist, so it would be spoilerific to go into detail about them, but they vary in tone and theme, with each monologue being its own self-contained piece.
The order in which the scenes are presented skillfully accustoms audiences to the shift between comedy and horror. The first sketch is pure comedy with no frightening or supernatural elements. It’s about a boy (Played by Clay Mcleod Chapman) who bursts into puberty while watching Sara Brightman perform in Phantom of the Opera. Audiences will giggle in shared embarrassment while hearing his tale, especially because it is based on a true story (Perhaps true for many men around Mcleod’s age). Yet the giggling begins to diminish as the show takes a darker path.
The next scene avoids mythological monsters and looks at the sort of real-life monsters that live among us passing themselves off as philanthropists. This tale of a woman who preys upon the helpless is also based on real events, and features Hanna Cheek as a saccharine sweet Southerner who oozes false charm like poisoned molasses.
The titular “Boogedy Boo” creeps in with the third tale, a proper ghost story that takes place in the unlikely setting of a hair salon. Ana Asensio plays a stereotypical Latina hair dresser to the hilt, but her performance hints at the macabre secret she hides, and indicates a depth to the character.
The cast consists of just these three actors, along with Shayfer James who provides musical interludes between scenes. Even though the scenes are essentially monologues, each has sporadic moments where the offstage performers will provide the voices of minor characters, or ghostly whispers, and even a bit of opera with Asensio doing a Sarah Brightman impression.
There is little in the way of set or costumes; performers mime their props, sit on simple benches, and wear the same basic grey and white suits for every character. Because of this minimalist approach, the sound design becomes especially important. One scene is about a hipster who collects rare blues records. His latest prize appears to be a blank recording, but it contains something supernatural. How does a haunted record sound? Sound designer Harrison Adams knows, and fills the air in the theater with the rhythmic hissing and barely perceptible thumps of a record that contains nothing but the sense of impending doom.
Halloween shows are pretty easy to come by this time of year, but The Pumpkin Pie Show: Boogedy Boo is a very intimate experience that aims for a subtler form of horror. Things do not jump out and scream “Boo” at the audience, but it does have a few good chills and lots of terrific acting. The Pumpkin Pie Show: Boogedy Boo runs through October 26th. See it… if you dare!