Augusta Chronicle
December 3, 2009

Ranting reindeer & a disgruntled elf

by Steve Uhles | Staff Writer

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and ... well, actually you might not.

The eight tiny reindeer, best know as the mostly anonymous team dragging Santa's sled from roof to roof, have been reinvented in The Eight: The Reindeer Monologues, one half of a jaded evening of Christmas stories being presented by Le Chat Noir.

The eight monologues, one delivered by each of the sled team members, revolve around accusations leveled at Santa. It turns out things are a little dark underneath the midnight sun. Santa is accused of having unsafe and unsavory work conditions by disgruntled reindeer with substance abuse problems, issues with authority figures and a desperate need for the spotlight.

"It's interesting, because there is no history for these characters," said Richard Justice, who plays Cupid, an openly gay reindeer. "What we know, all we have really ever known, is the names. It's interesting, because it allows (author) Jeff Goode the opportunity to do anything he wanted."

Jezibell Anat, who plays Dancer, a Jewish reindeer, said the play is a risque alternative to the often sticky-sweet entertainment options rolled out during the holiday season. She said the play, which veers more toward Bad Santa than It's a Wonderful Life, might serve as a welcome break from harried holiday celebrations marked by goodwill and cheer.

"This is not saccharine," she said. "It's very adult. That's what I like about it. It's a play that really is about getting to the meat of these characters."

Mr. Justice said that audiences might be shocked by some of the allegations aimed at the venerable Mr. Claus. That, he explained, is probably the point.

"We hope this takes things too far," he said.

"That's something we take seriously," Ms. Anat said. "We are way more interesting than the claymation show." Santaland Diaries , based on the memoir essay by humorist David Sedaris, makes up the second half of the evening. The one-man show features Augusta actor John Hutchens in the role of Crumpet, a disgruntled elf employed by Macy's flagship store in New York City.

Although Mr. Sedaris writes and reads with a distinctive voice, Mr. Hutchens said the play transcends its creator for the same reasons it initially appealed to the National Public Radio listeners who heard an early version in 1992 -- the reality of the Christmas-shopping situations.

"I just thought about this as something that really happened," he said. "That was important. And because I worked at Disney when I was in college, I was able to find parallels. I've had people ask me when the 3 p.m. parade starts." Although Mr. Hutchens' Crumpet is very different from the Sedaris creation, he believes the sharp and slightly cynical humor that has made Mr. Sedaris a literary success will certainly contribute to attracting audiences to the Chat Noir production.

"I'm pretty sure the people who know him bought their tickets first."