The Pumpkin Pie Show: la petite mortes
nytheatre.com review by J Jordan
August 11, 2006
From what I understand, The Pumpkin Pie Show is established and somewhat known. They are also FringeNYC alumni. [Editor's Note: The Pumpkin Pie Show has been in four FringeNYC festivals and indeed has been performed, on and off, for nearly a decade.] I didn’t know anything about them, but jumped at the chance to see The Pumpkin Pie Show: la petites mortes after a colleague advised they were a sure thing. Armed with that and little other information, I headed down to the DR2 Theater off Union Square for what I assumed would be an hour of scary storytelling. Boy was I wrong.
I was surprised to hear the pre-music choice of Morphine—a band known for jazziness, not the macabre—playing as I entered the new theatre. I was even more surprised to see instruments of a brass band littered around the semi-circle of chairs on an otherwise unset stage save for the microphone dead center.
I grew excited as the actors and musicians took their places and the lights dimmed. Here we go, I thought—scary little tales with a creepy twist. No such luck.
The tales—five in all with one entertaining tongue-in-cheek song thrown in at the beginning for good measure—are not creepy or ghoulish as promised by Pumpkin Pie’s propaganda on the FringeNYC website. Some are funny and some are downright sad, but none of them seems to have any relation to the others except that each concerns death, hence the title: les petites mortes.
In fact, my date for the evening and I were hard-pressed to find a common theme binding the pieces other than the simple novelty of their supposedly being about death. But the pieces aren’t really about death, despite the title; they’re about the aftermath of death, and the living. They don’t inform one another or build upon one another. Maybe they aren’t supposed to. Either way the result is the same—there is no tone and no synergy. I wasn’t sure in which world I was supposed to be.
The actors don’t really interact, and some actors are given a lot to say while others have very small parts. The accompanying music is fine but unnecessary—or, it should be. Had any of the pieces been strong enough to stand on its own, the music could have served merely as whipped cream on the Pumpkin Pie rather than easily distracting my attention away from the actors.
This is not to say that each of the pieces, and each of the actors, don’t have their moments. One scene, during which a crematorium worker asks his girlfriend to marry him, is especially engaging, especially since that actor ditches the cumbersome microphone and directly addresses members of the audience while seated on the lip of the stage, eventually asking one lucky gal seated to my right to be his bride. Another, also with a comic touch, about a couple on the run from their children who fear they are unable to care for themselves any longer, is more satisfying because it involves two actors interacting, even if the character one of them plays is suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Theatre is, to many, about live people interacting with one another, the spark that is created between them. This show, despite its setup, live music, talented actors, and decent writing, lacks the very thing I was looking for all along: life.