Chapman is joined by brilliantly animated actress Hanna Cheek who has been associated with The Pumpkin Pie Show since 2001. Cheek doesn’t just tell her three stories, she acts them out creating fully developed characters along the way. The first story, “Labor Pains,” is Cheek’s. A woman about to give birth to a very big baby boy has to tell her husband that the child isn’t his: she became pregnant on a camping trip and she isn’t quite sure what the child will be. In “Diaper Genie,” told by Chapman, a new father discovers that there are runic messages in his daughter’s stool, but his wife becomes suspicious when he acts on the prophecies.
Cheek returns in “Pick of the Litter” as a mother at the playground who takes advantage of the fact that most children are left unattended by parents and nannies who pay little attention, a story with a cautionary warning. Chapman tells “That Family,” a story set on an airplane. A man and his wife Mira are traveling to Italy with their nine-month-old baby Shelly who sleeps perfectly through the first hour until the stewardess’ cart wakes her up and all hell breaks loose. The final story, “Mama Bird,” told by Cheek is the most bizarre. When a mother discovers her underweight toddler daughter eating an appropriate food, the only solution is to do what mother birds do. The shocking ending is both startling and unforeseen.
While Chapman is a commanding storyteller, Cheek, who has a great many theatre credits, is a consummate actress. Running through the gamut of emotions, she creates each of her different off-kilter mothers in three dimensions. All of the O’Henry endings land as a big surprise, just as they are intended to. The no sets and no costumes force us to listen carefully and Chapman’s stories are so well written that we hang on every word. The Pumpkin Pie Show: Labor Pains is a diverting, unusual evening with many bizarre pleasures. Each contains a scare that sneaks up on you, worthy of Halloween that is to come. This is storytelling of the highest caliber as well as offering a unique view of the world.
The Pumpkin Pie Show: Labor Pains (through October 10, 2015)
Frigid New York@ Horse Trade
UNDER St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place, between First Avenue and Avenue A, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit http://www.horseTRADE.info
Running time: 70 minutes with no intermission