Some Kind of Pink Breakfast

Chris Harcum turns his life in high school into a John Hughes’ movie, peppered with ’80s references, in this bittersweet solo comedy. This was first performed in Richmond, VA in 1999. It was revived at the Virginia Film Festival in 2002 and the New York International Fringe Festival in 2006. 

SOKP Poster

Mercifully, playwright/performer Chris Harcum has been adhering to the Geneva Conventions of solo performance…  Gothamist

An excellent, charismatic storyteller, playwright-performer Chris Harcum dives into his one-hour journey back to high school with warmth, humor, and loads of

fun ’80s references. Trying to decide whether or not he should go to his 20-year reunion, he recalls his most awkward moments, from being bullied as a five-foot, 98-pound sophomore to his first sexual experiences with an emotionally unstable 17-year-old girl. His only prop is a chair that, among other ingenious uses, cleverly stands in for his girlfriend during sex.

-Angela Ashman, The Village Voice

Love them or hate them, the characters in John Hughes movies like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink have achieved both iconic and camp stature. For those not enamored of the Hughes oeuvre, Chris Harcum’s one-man show Some Kind of Pink Breakfast, billed as going “where John Hughes wouldn’t dare,” might cause shudders. It shouldn’t. Harcum relives his 1980s high school experiences by invoking these films and other period cultural references and giving them a Southern Gothic spin. The combination-and his rich, humane portrayal of a dozen or so characters-thoroughly charms.

-Andy Propst, Backstage *Pick*

Besides death and taxes, the other “inevitable” event in most people’s lives is the high school reunion. Those who weren’t voted most popular or involved in sports tend to deliberate on their attendance, weighing the thought of seeing people they want to see against the thought of seeing people they never want to see again. Writer/actor Chris Harcum has turned his ambivalence into a one-man show, Some Kind of Pink Breakfast. He takes the audience back to the 1980’s, where memories of his bizarre high school experience get muddled with the names of the characters from the movies and bands of the era. Using only a wooden folding chair as a prop and backed by sound effects, he creates various locations, from school to the family dinner table to his girlfriend’s car at a make-out spot.

Harcum embodies his teenage self as well as the kids, relatives, and authority figures in his world, switching between personas by using a different accent and body posture. He gets the essence of these people across without the manic antics or slavery to perfection that mark lesser solo performers. Moreover, there’s something so natural and honest about his acting; he puts up no emotional barriers between himself and his audience, which makes his storytelling all the more affecting and effective. In the chorus to the theme from The Breakfast Club, the band Simple Minds sings, “Don’t you forget about me.” It is unlikely that anyone in attendance at Some Kind of Pink Breakfast will forget the events of Chris Harcum’s past. Here’s hoping that when his 20th reunion rolls around in 2008, he’s already made other plans.

-Lauren Snyder, Off Off Online

Some Kind of Pink Breakfast at the Flea

Spare of actors and set pieces, Chris Harcum’s one-man trip down memory lane, Some Kind of Pink Breakfast, is long on talent. Harcum embarks on a 70-minute journey back to school, in which he plays a total of 27 characters all at once, with no artifice—only body language, facial tics, and varied vocal tones to distinguish all of them, including friends, classmates, family members, and even his then girlfriend Molly. It is hard not to pity Harcum as he relays what a whirlwind his sophomore year was. Standing only 5 feet tall and weighing less than 100 pounds, he is catnip for the bullies who ride the bus with him.

Over the course of the play (crisply directed by Bricken Sparacino), Harcum sprinkles plenty of 1980s references—just about every entertainment nugget, including Dune, Quicksilver, “Bette Davis Eyes,” even Trapper Keepers, gets a mention. But Pink is more than just a recap of an episode of VH1’s I Love the ’80s. In fact, it is downright riveting. As the taut show progresses, one realizes that Harcum isn’t interested in nostalgia, and his high school experience included moments far more scarring than most. Like Van Halen, Harcum too was hot for his English teacher, only she returned the interest. He also details his first sexual encounter, an unsettling tryst with a near stranger whom he eventually learns has many emotional problems. That he plays both of these characters, and does so using a chair as a prop, is impressive. That the scene never draws laughs or snickers is downright miraculous.

This is a very hard show to pull off, even if there had been an ensemble to shoulder the load, so the fact that Harcum is able to do it alone makes his work one of the most vital stage performances of the year. As defined as each of his characters are, Pink moves at a quick pace, with Harcum constantly and sleekly morphing out of one skin and into another. There also is plenty of humor here; Harcum’s piece is rich enough that it successfully entwines comedy with pathos, hitting his emotional truths home all the more easily.

Given his soulful performance, it would be easy to overlook the technical help he receives. Maryvel Bergen’s sharp lighting design helps punctuate the highs and considerable lows of Harcum’s 15th year. At the end of Harcum’s tale, he again poses the question of whether he should attend his high school reunion. His trip may or may not be rewarding, but a trip to see Pink surely is.

-Doug Strassler, Off Off Online

 

The piece isn’t just an ’80s kitsch fest, however. The references are there to soften the blow of a sometimes poignant-and apparently true-story of a very awkward first romance between two outsiders, and how a relationship with a very troubled girl quickly overwhelmed the 15-year-old Harcum. It’s a comment about how the happy, perky image we have of high school doesn’t even come close to the chaotic and confusing reality that many of us faced-and ultimately survived. Under the direction of Bricken Sparacino, Harcum nimbly takes on numerous characters in the piece…His energy is so contagious…

-Kimberly Wadsworth, NYTheatre

Some Kind of Pink Breakfast at FringeNYCFor a refresher course on what the catch phrase ‘thinking outside of the box’ really means, check out Some Kind of Pink Breakfast. It’s stripped-down, flesh-and-blood entertainment, served raw without condiments. And one of the best times I’ve had in ages. The centerpiece of the production is an impressive one-man show written and performed by the ingenious Chris Harcum. Filled to overflowing with references to the 1980s and the decade’s coming-of-age movies, the semi-autobiographical piece is a whirlwind of insight and emotion…But Harcum has created more than just a vehicle for his acting talent. “Pink Breakfast” is a lyrical prose-poem that captures the bizarre transitional time that is adolescence. Using only a chair as a prop…Harcum spins a tale that is original in its wit and fervor, universal in its theme and appeal.

-D.L. Hintz, Style Weekly