Halloween keeps rolling with its takeover of this city. And with it, the minds of the most twisted individuals brings to us the most terrifying experiences to life. And in a basement, under a St. Marks building, in this old and fruitful city, one of those mad scientists you think about exercises his work for an audience which loves the frights in his voice, the dread in which his stories dwell, and the laughter that comes with each twist and turn… wait what? Yes, folks, the October month brings the ghost stories out, and while the people at Radiotheatre brought us the scares with its H.P. Lovecraft Festival, Clay McLeod Chapman brings us to the world of nightmares in a completely different way. And it is a completely morbid delight.
Clay McLeod Chapman is a modern day bard in every aspect of the way. No sets, no effects. Just Hanna Cheek and himself telling a group of stories that will shift your mind to truly comprehend horror in the most mundane way. Clive Baker once said that horror came from two things: A reality just like our own attacked by a second reality (aka an alien form), that either needs to be exorcised or become part of the reality you know. Or the second one, which is a lot more complex, one in which the whole world is haunted. The whole reality is a mystery and there’s no status quo. This kind of story is more about relative realities, more personal to the characters, and their change of perception in an ever-changing world. It is in the latter stories that Chapman crafts his tales. While the aforementioned Lovecraft Festival used the power of radio to create the desired emotions, Chapman relies only on his voice. And while Lovecraft stories are of the unknown attacking the known, Chapman’s stories are about everyday life and its side effects. The relative realities of the regular family circle and the horrors that are beneath.
Having said that, he tackles each one with a sense of humor which makes you feel more comfortable with what’s being said. This year’s theme was Labor Pains, and Chapman, a future father himself, uses this to deal with the fears and paranoia of becoming a father. The five stories that compose this compilation range from a woman in labor with what ends up being Big Foot’s baby to a mother that adopts the feeding habits of birds to feed her child. Within these stories, normal worries of new parents like changing diapers or flying with your newborn baby are explored on stage with the delicate but abrasive style of a man that knows how to grab your attention and not let it go. And his partner is equally as good, with her voice charming you into the obscure and dangerous. It’s so funny to mention Lovecraft, because Chapman seems to channel him perfectly while giving his own take on the genre.
The Pumpkin Pie Show is an annual staple of the Halloween NYC scene. This was my first year and I could see why its become a stayple. The love shown for the work by the creators pulls the audience in, makes you feel like you are at home with someone you trust, and then they take you for a spin. A very entertaining one. I would advise you keep an eye next year to see what this scientist of words and the stage brings to us. He is proof that sometimes a little goes a long way. Plus they were amazing hosts to the evening! Check their work and podcast here http://claymcleodchapman.com/blog/pumpkin-pie-show-podcast
*All images via KL Thomas
Out of Four stars:
Twisted Talk: Have you ever been to The Pumpkin Pie show? What’s your favorite Halloween theater in the city? Discuss below!