THE PUMPKIN PIE SHOW: STUMP SPEECHES | No less than the very soul of America is at stake, in this election-themed edition of “The Pumpkin Pie Show.” A dependable Halloween season source of unsettling images that worm their way into the brain with nothing more than sheer word power and impeccable acting, this 19th season of horror scribe Clay McLeod Chapman’s gutsy storytelling session finds its finest conduit yet in the debate stage histrionics of presidential candidates Pendleton and Templeton — two bitterly competitive senators with skeletons in their closets and blood on their hands. Watched over by a pair of manic, hyperbole-prone moderators, these dead ringers for Trump and Clinton trade caustic barbs as a multitude of ladder-climbing sins bubble to the surface. Turns out, the sacrifices we voters are expected to make in the name of goat-god and country involve actual sacrifices. That’s nothing, though, compared to the toll taken on a meek Pendleton rally attendee who sees an opposition protester drawn and quartered; or the self-medicating First Lady who spins a cautionary tale about her devil’s bargain with an interdimensional donor to hubby’s war chest. As fun to watch as the current race is hard to stomach, “Stump Speeches” is an evening of theater that draws back the curtain on human nature and delivers what the voting booth can’t: satisfaction that doesn’t require compromise, and a party line that’s beyond reproach.
Through Nov. 5, Thurs.–Sat., 8pm, at UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Pl., btw. First Ave. & Ave. A). For tickets ($20, $15 for students, seniors, and military), visit horsetrade.info/under-st-marks. Artist info at claymcleodchapman.com.
PHANTASMAGORIA; OR, LET US SEEK DEATH! | “Mary Shelly’s mother died giving birth to Mary. This knowledge of her body as murderer,” we’re told, in an ominous tone, “it hanged around her like a ghost for the rest of her life.” Set in 1816 and taking place in a candlelit Genevan castle on the rainy, booze-soaked night during which a teenage Mary would answer Lord Byron’s spooky story challenge by conjuring the ultimate struggle between creator and creation, “Phantasmagoria; or, Let Us Seek Death!” uses biography and gothic storytelling to breathe new life into the origin story of “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.” This Eric Borlaug production runs as part of the 2016 La MaMa Puppet Series, and has its premiere, fittingly, during the 200th anniversary year of the monster tale that refuses to die. The producers are keeping the precise look of their walking collection of corpse parts under wraps, all the better to amp up its visceral impact; but social media teases the towering, tortured visage interacting with passersby, on the block where he’ll rise from a slab in the lab.
Written by Chana Porter; conceived and directed by Randolph Curtis Rand; puppetry by Benjamin Stuber. Through Nov. 6: Thurs.–Sat. at 7pm and Sun. at 4pm. At La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre (66 East Fourth St., btw. Bowery & Second Ave.). For tickets ($30, $25 for students/seniors; limited number of $10 tickets for each show), visit lamama.org or call 646-430-5374. For mature audiences (ages 16+). Post-show panel follows Oct. 30 performance. On Instagram: @phantasmagoriaplay; @letusseekdeath on Twitter.
BUTOH BEETHOVEN: ECLIPSE | Returning after a two-year-long international tour that included a four-star review at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, butoh star Vangeline communes with ghosts of the past, in the New York premiere of a solo performance that pays tribute to a pair of towering giants: Tatsumi Hijikata, founder of butoh, and composer Ludwig van Beethoven. With due respect for the “Dance of Darkness” Japanese art form that came to be in the decade after Hiroshima, Vangeline’s sci-fi noir take gets a further injection of futurism from cutting-edge lighting technologies by European designer Tilen Sepič, a fiber-optic costume by the French company LumiGram, and by singer Kesang Marstrand’s recording of the Paul Verlaine poem, “Chansom D’Automne.” Communing with the performer by coming in costume is highly encouraged!
Nightly through Oct. 31, 8pm, at The Producers Club, Royal Theater (358 W. 44th St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). For tickets ($20, $18 for students/seniors), visit brownpapertickets.com. Artist info at vangeline.com.
—BY SCOTT STIFFLER