In perhaps the most timely and relevant theater show of the season, writer and actor Clay McLeod Chapman produces and stars in “The Pumpkin Pie Show: Stump Speeches” at Under St. Marks Theatre. The show values a sadistic humor centered on the impending presidential election with Halloween-esque touches. Chapman passes himself off as a parody of Donald Trump while debating Hillary Clinton, masterfully portrayed by Kristen Vaughan. The names of the two characters are changed, to avoid copyright issues: “Senator Pendleton” and “Senator Templeton” thus face off to the best of their caricatured abilities. Each candidate’s history and policies are mocked with a creepy Halloween flair — featuring mentions of blood and body parts using extremely detailed gore. The effect of this absurdity is what provokes laughter and makes the show so enjoyable.
In an interview with Rue Morgue, Chapman describes the show as “a melding of macabre fiction and live performance.” He goes on to say it is “part storytelling session, part boxing match, part shamanistic ritual.”
In one scene, Susan Ferrara plays an ardent Pendleton supporter (i.e. Trump), who also happens to be madly and hopelessly in love with him. She talks about one of his rallies she attended, recalling how she does not remember a single thing he said but that it does not matter; it was the way in which he said it — like Pendleton was speaking right to you. Her obvious obsession draws out the audience’s laughter — mocking the supporters who do not pay attention to the words being said, but are instead entranced by the way in which they are delivered.
Pendleton’s main flaws circle around various stories of his illegal sexual affairs with young women, while Templeton’s biggest deterrent is her killing of uncorrupted, virginal boys for sacrifices to her campaign. Templeton talks about how wonderful it is when the boys’ warm blood is spurted all over her face.
The in-depth, gruesome stories reach a climax when Pendleton admits to his campaign lies, “You won’t believe the shit that comes out of my mouth” and how he “serves up a turd” while simultaneously a fake wad of poop slithers out of his mouth. Templeton, too, admits to being two-faced and motions as if she is ripping off her face, screaming, “Are you ready for my unveiling?!” After Pendleton admits he sold his soul to become the next president, the show concludes with the three other actors murmuring a spell which causes him to seize and die right there on stage.
“Pumpkin Pie Speeches” is an extremely vulgar show, both from its vicious mockery of the presidential campaign and from its Halloween-themed flairs. However, it is vulgar in the very best way possible, all aimed at ridiculousness and humor. The actors, even though conveying ludicrous stories, captured the emotions of their characters amazingly; much so, in fact, that the absurdity of the show became almost believable.
It was incredible to watch such talent and raw emotion put into the storytelling of these outlandish characters. The element of horror in this live show rests in the acting: no lights, no sounds, no special effects. It was simply the actors’ words and emotions as they performed their roles.
“The Pumpkin Pie Show: Stump Speeches” will be running at Under St. Marks Theatre at 85 E 4th St. until Nov. 5.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 24 print edition. Email Caroline Zemsky at [email protected]