Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati Enquirer - Tuesday, December 9, 2003

'Reindeer' wags tales with holiday cheer

Theater review

By Joseph McDonough
Enquirer contributor

The Know Theatre Tribe has taken the reins of Cincinnati's newly annual production of The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, the witty and caustically irreverent tales written by Jeff Goode from the point of view of Santa's favorite sleigh-pullers.

Also new this year are the performance dates and location: "off" nights of Sunday through Tuesday in the cozy enclosed courtyard of Arnold's Bar and Grill.

This tavern setting is a perfect fit for this unabashedly adult holiday show. At Sunday night's preview the audience did much to add to the raucous festiveness of director Jason Bruffy's fine production.

The Eight each take a turn telling their story from Arnold's tiny stage and walking through the aisles and among the tables in the courtyard. Goode's clever monologues are in many parts laugh-out-loud funny and the solid cast does well with them.

We first have leader Dasher (Reggie Willis), full of attitude and cool; then Cupid (Brandon Brady), the "only openly gay reindeer;" Prancer aka Hollywood (Mathew Pyle), who's focused on his fledgling film career; and Blitzen (Catherine Elizabeth Cook), a feminist advocate against reindeer abuse.

After a brief intermission we meet Comet (Elizabeth Harris), a reformed reindeer from Hell's Herd; Dancer (Melissa Urriquia), the resident airhead of the team; Donner (Darryl Hilton), the father of the famed and ill-fated Rudolph; and Vixen (Jennifer Dalton), who has made scandalous allegations against jolly old St. Nick.

For all the considerable humor in both the performances and in the writing, oddly enough, the two stories that are most serious throughout, Donner's and Vixen's, work the best as pieces of theater.

Hilton gives a controlled, standout performance, never leaving his stool as Donner tells his tale of shame, letting us in on his horrible secret about how his son gained renown.

While Hilton succeeds with quiet power, Dalton is equally impressive with the closing histrionics of Vixen.

Though we have been led all evening to think that Vixen's story will be raunchily hilarious-and it is at points-the humor momentarily masks the pain and humiliation that Dalton nails as a sexually exploited woman.

It all makes for unusual, but interesting alternative holiday theater.


The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, through Dec. 23, Know Theatre Tribe at Arnold's, 210 E. Eighth St., (513) 300-5669 (KNOW).