For a while, it seems as though two cooks in the kitchen — the modest, authentic scenic design is by Michael Hidalgo — may be one too many. As Mama “works her magic,” Dory wonders if there’s an “order” to any of it.
They humorously bicker and banter about the right way to core and slice an apple, the proper apple-to-crust ratio, the need to measure the ingredients precisely (or not), whether everything's really better with brown sugar (even shrimp scampi), and, yes, that symbolically important step of molding a thawed 9-inch pie crust to fit the 10-inch pie pan of life.
Once it’s all assembled and put in to bake, their “idle chat” gradually turns less trivial, albeit no more “subtle” (as Mama puts it). During the last 30 minutes of the show, skeletons emerge from the family closet concerning Mama’s husband and Dory’s father, Mama’s wayward sister and Dory’s estranged daughter, and a tragic accident involving Dory’s husband and son. Mama’s dizzy spells seem to be getting worse, although the scars on Dory’s wrists have healed well enough.
Mother and daughter soon come to concur that the random or arbitrary “nature of life” can be challenging. But, as surely as Mama finally notes that “If your heart’s not in it, you won’t make a good pie,” the tender and perceptive performances of Howell and Bradshaw work wonders with the utterly familiar recipe of “Pie in the Sky,” genuinely humanizing what could have merely played out like a hokey or mawkish extended episode of “Mama’s Family.”
"The truth is what you believe it is," Mama says. While some of the show's ingredients might be a bit hard to swallow on their own, in the believable hands of these co-stars, it all blends together and goes down as smoothly and effortlessly as possible.
“Pie in the Sky”
Through April 30. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays; 10:30 a.m. Wednesday (April 26 only). $15-$28. ART Station, 5384 Manor Drive, Stone Mountain. 770-469-1105, www.artstation.org.
Bottom line: Rather routine, but nicely enacted.