The stage as a teaching vehicle dates as far back to ancient Greece as playwrights have plucked the family tree for comedy and tragedy. Early Christians used it to spread the Gospel by portraying the sacred stories in Greek amphitheaters. Much of what we know about each other and different cultures is owed to theater. Comedy is the kissing cousin of drama. Pie in the Sky, Art Station’s world premiere production once again makes the case that the arts-inexplicably always under threat-is the core of a civilized society. Diminish the arts even slightly and norms of civility decline.
Where else but the live stage can you examine the complexity of a family while baking a fresh apple pie?
Lawrence Thelen’s Pie In The Sky is a comedy about what happens when the “nesting instinct” is applied to the end of one’s life. Dory, brilliantly performed by Karen Howell lives with her mother Margaret, hilariously portrayed by Barbara Bradshaw. Both are widows sharing a modest home in Abilene, Texas. It’s Dory’s birthday and Mama arises at 4:10 am to start the process of making her recipe apple pie, her gift for Dory. Mama is noisy and very funny.
Dory wakes up and helps Mama, who has her own ways of using ingredients and kitchen implements. At times, there isn’t room for two cooks in the small kitchen. Through razor sharp lines, humor intensifies but is never cruel.
Mother (85) and daughter (65) are widows. Aging and the specter of limited days ahead is a backdrop. There are some family secrets and as the clock (and the oven timer) wind down, the opportunity for transparency is at hand.
Pie in the Sky is the anthesisis of those silly productions commonly named Della. Comedy-the real deal-is challenging and falls flat absent imaginative, creative writing and advanced acting. Thelen’s script as interpreted by these two gifted stage veterans pulls the audience into the kitchen. We revisit our mothers for a few precious moments, remembering that while they were set in their ways, they loved us and made few if any excuses for their slips along the way. They taught us how to be human.
Pie in the Sky is tightly directed by David Thomas, one of the real giants of theater in Georgia. Chad Fenimore’s stage management allowed the genuine aroma of a pie baking in the oven to waft around the audience, leaving them fully entertained, yearning for a slice of homemade apple pie.
Running through April 30. (770) 469.1105; www.artstation.org