The Daily Cardinal - January 23, 1997

Santa stands accused





Thanksgiving Day has long since left us. Christmas has also come and gone.

Everyone is basically sick to death of white lights, decaying wreaths and bad presents. So why is I-Car Productions bringing back three performances of "The Eight Reindeer Monologues," so long after the holiday season?

Isn't this play a bit late to be socially relevant? Do they think we're so preoccupied with the Super Bowl and pigs-in-a-blanket hors d'oeuvres that we would not notice yet another holiday show being slipped in? Do they think that just because they won The Wisconsin State Journal's Best of the Best Theater Performance for 1995 and recently captured The Chicago Reader's Critic's Choice Award 1996 they can waltz right back into Madison and do a repeat performance?

The answer relies on all of these obvious reactions and then some. "The Eight" is not your conventional "we-have-no-money-but-Christmas-will-save-the-day!"melodrama. It does not employ corny angels or "It's a Wonderful Life" miracles.

"The Eight" is a farce that has a homosexual reindeer, a sexually harassing Santa and a nasally handicapped Rudolph. It is a comedy that takes the conventions of Americana and exposes the truth behind the ideals.

In an interview with The Daily Cardinal, Brian Bon Durant, the show's producer and a former "The Eight" Dasher, explained the mission of the troupe.

"Basically, something has gone awry at the North Pole. ["The Eight"] is more of a twisted look on the holidays--new and grown-up," he said.

The play is based on the monologues of eight different reindeer who serve as models of real-life individuals. "The Eight's" complex dialogue and sophisticated comedy contort America's traditional holiday heroes. It makes what appears picture perfect seem absurd and reality seem comedic.

Bon Durant talked about why his production is appropriate for the Madison area.

"Madison is a very intelligent community. At this play, you laugh, and it makes you think. It is intelligent humor," he said.

"The Eight" was written by Jeff Goode and directed by Cheryl Snodgrass, and was originally performed in Madison two years ago. The comedy then went to Chicago, New York and several other cities, where it received a greater budget and more elaborate sets.

According to Bon Durant, even an audience that has seen "The Eight" peviously could see it again this season and still be surprised by its dialogue and characters.

"You can continue to see it over and over. It's always changing," he said.

One might wonder why this play is necessary at all. Why waste the time on a theme so mundane and overdone as the Christmas one? What is this nonsense about Rudolph being deformed?

The play addresses more issues than the blatant ones of homophobism and sexual harassment. It reaches into modern American consciousness and exposes just how tightly we hold on to established stereotypes.

One reason it is comical to see Santa's imperfections is that Americans may not have ever contemplated that they exist. He is an image of what white America envisions a grandpa to be. Suggesting that his power is really used to objectify others reflects the reality behind current power structures and undying machismo in contemporary America.

"The Eight" is a refreshing, crooked break from the constant barrage of political correctness drowning American conversation and thought.,

"In a world that's so politically correct, it's nice to be able to go and let your mind relax, let down your guard, and absorb some in-your-face truth," Bon Durant said.

"The Eight Reindeer Monologues" will appear at the Madison Civic Center Friday, January 24 and Saturday, January 25. Tickets are $10. For Reservations, call 278-5861.

© 1996 The Daily Cardinal Media Corporation