Helena Independent Record - December 13, 2007

Reindeer tell-all: IT Productions presents 'The Eight'

What happens when Santa's been bad?

If you want the real story, talk to the jolly man's reindeer.

In Jeff Goode's satire, "The Eight," the man behind the red suit is exposed by his "elite fleet" of reindeer when a scandal erupts in Santaland.

IT Productions will present "The Eight" two weekends only, Dec. 14-15 and Dec. 20-22.

The show is directed by Nikki Baker who says the script is a timely satire on political scandal and the media.

"A lot of people are gonna be able to go, mm-hmm," she says, nodding her head.

"It takes these well-known characters and uses them to make a point about society," she added.

And besides that, it's funny.

The play offers a helping of tart humor to offset the sweetness of the holiday season, says Mary Riitano.

Riitano plays Vixen, a reindeer who, just because she's pretty, is assumed to be trouble, too.

"I'm the one who brings the allegation against Santa," says Riitano. "He's not what he's cracked up to be."

Staged by Baker as a press conference, the series of monologues sees Dasher, Prancer, Dancer you know the rest all give their take on what really happened between Vixen and Santa.

Riitano says that in addition to the humorous script, she took the role because it was out of her comfort zone.

"Well, um, Vixen's rather crass," she explains.

Come to find out, so are several of the other reindeer, beginning with Cupid, the token "gay reindeer" who actor David Clemens plays as just a little over the top.

While the plot unfolds, viewers get to see what it's really like to be a minion for Santa, as each reindeer reveals his or her personal Christmas plight. If you've ever wanted to get a glimpse of the reindeer behind the antlers, now's your chance.

Take Dasher, for instance, who is played by Thom Goksch.

Christmas looks a little bit different to this veteran reindeer, who boasts of surviving blizzards and steep sloping roofs, sleet, fog and hail. Dasher scoffs at reindeer who complain about unsafe working conditions, and takes issue with any "unChristmaslike behavior."

Tom explains that his character behaves this way because he's been "the" reindeer from day one.

"I've been here longer than everyone," he says, rather seriously.

The cast of Helena actors also includes Ryan Pfifer, Kevin Harrington, Mary Lynn Kraus, David Clements and Liz Harter.

Although the show is written as a series of monologues, Baker has staged it so that all of the reindeer are onstage at all times, so you can see their reactions to each other.

She says the challenge of the play is hitting the jokes without hitting the audience over the head.

"Satire isn't slapstick," says Baker. "So you don't want to overstate the humor."

And if you could use an evening of what Baker describes as the play's "acidic wit," rest assured that if you enjoy "The Eight," it won't get you into trouble with Dasher or even Santa, for that matter.

"I don't perceive it as an attack on Christmas," Baker said.