The Pumpkin Pie Show: Boogedy Boo
by Gianfranco Lentini · October 14, 2013
Indie Artists on New Plays #9: Gianfranco Lentini looks at The Pumpkin Pie Show: Boogedy Boo now playing at Under St. Marks
It’s not Halloween until you’ve flown your broomstick on down to the crypts of Under St. Marks to catch this year’s The Pumpkin Pie Show: Boogedy Boo. Presented by Horse Trade Theater Group, it’s undeniable that Clay McLeod Chapman has been hard at work brewing up 5 new tale-telling pieces that will leave you horrified, aghast, and titillated in places you didn’t even know were possible. Challenging the conceit on what makes a truly scary story, Chapman, accompanied by 13-year Pumpkin Pie veteran Hanna Cheek and newcomer Ana Asensio, elaborates on seemingly everyday situations gone terribly (yet hilariously) wrong.
What is it this time of year that scares us the most? How about a public erection in the Majestic Theater or maybe a record containing a noise so ghostly it redefines what it means to have a song stuck in your head. Chapman commands the stage in his well-versed presentation of these two stories (the first of which he swears to the audience is a true story about his hormonal 11 year old self). Combining just the perfect amount of over-zealous expressions and hushed tones on the verge of a breakdown, Chapman proves to the audience that horror doesn’t need all the blood and special effects as long as you have a handful of embarrassing childhood stories or a fascination for resurrecting lost music that should have otherwise stayed buried.
Hanna Cheek, for whom the ability to make you incredibly unnerved yet simultaneously enthralled seems to come second nature, doesn’t for one second let the audience’s suspense drop whether she’s on the run from Social Services as Auntie Paulina of Auntie Paulina’s Daycare or the obsessive mama bird to her 3 month old baby bird, Shelly (and believe me, you can take that as literal as you want). Relaying these stories of complicated family matters, Cheek observes her audience with a hard eye and twisted smile as if she gets a sick enjoyment out of watching us shift in our seats; it’s almost as if she wants us to challenge the validity of her stories. Sitting with my mouth agape for most of her performance, there was nothing more for me to do than to look straight back at Cheek and pray that I wouldn’t become the next day’s meal for Shelly or the kidnapped daycare kids.
Adding a new spice to the evening of work, Ana Asensio joins The Pumpkin Pie Show with a Spanish attitude that’s almost too fierce to handle. Portraying a character comparable to a modern day Mrs. Lovett (Sweeney Todd), Asensio tells a cautionary tale about one hairdresser’s obsessive desire for “natural hair or nada.” Taking care of customers who want flowing locks of hair, Asensio takes the audience to the scene of her crime, the local morgue, where all the dead Jane Does have no choice but to relinquish their hair for Asensio’s business. Fusing strands of hair together, is it possible that those who’ve passed before us can live on attached to our scalps? Or are the whispered cries of “Ayuda me!” just a trick of the wind… Asensio makes our own hairs stand on end with her surprisingly powerful ability to make us question if we believe in ghosts.
Take this production and throw in the mood-defining music of Shayfer James, and you’ve had yourself the ultimate Halloween celebration. From candy at the door to an exuberant handshake out onto the street, The Pumpkin Pie Show has made a patron out of me. So this time next year, you’ll know exactly where to find me.
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A quick inventory of the stage, designed to kitschy perfection by Meganne George, tells the audience all we need to know about the family that lives there. Portraits of the Pope and John F. Kennedy both have a place of honor, handmade Easter decorations are proudly displayed, family portraits abound, the fully stocked bar is within easy reach, a well-worn piano flanks the front door and the patriarch snoozes soundly in an overstuffed arm chair.