Indianapolis Star - November 28, 2003

theater review

Up on the housetop, reindeer pause (to dish dirt)

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Shows run today through Dec. 20.
Where: Theatre on the Square, 627 Massachusetts Ave.
Tickets: $20 adults, $17 seniors and students. Call 1-317-637-8085.
Bottom line: Those reindeer games!
By Peter Szatmary
November 28, 2003

Jeff Goode's wicked satire, "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues," accuses Santa Claus of bestiality, pedophilia and rape. "The last thing I need is that jolly old elf coming down my chimney," declares Cupid, the only openly gay airborne workhorse.

Theatre on the Square wraps the depraved proceedings in a festively warped bow most of the time, so Cupid's antlers are bent.

Ho, ho, whoa. If the Grinch were a moralist with a perverse sense of humor, he'd steal this edgy 1994 spoof. It's a mistletoe dipped in acid.

In this plotless dark comedy, bodacious Vixen says offstage that Santa sexually harassed her, and the elite beasts respond one at a time. But not unseen Rudolph, who relapsed into insanity -- maybe because of this.

Back to back, testifiers defend or attack St. Nick and his large, lewd appetites. The action doesn't end so much as stop after the final monologue (from Vixen). But many caricatures are boldly drawn, and most jokes land firmly.

Macho Dasher, the leader of the pack, makes fun of peers who protest "unsafe working conditions" -- meaning fog. The lug would rather not think about the problems surrounding "fat boy."

Fey Cupid calls the bowl full of jelly a sadist for cracking his whip. But "to tell you the truth, I kind of like it, too."

Cliched Prancer ( aka "Hollywood" after being in a movie) mocks "Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer." Besides the shiny runt, all the animals look the same, male and female. By the way, no deer has been nominated for an Academy Award, not even Bambi.

The feminist Blitzen tries to organize a strike. "Why are we treated like livestock?" she asks. And Vixen warns about Santa: He knows when you're sleeping and knows how to get into your house.

Comet, a former gangbanger once mistaken for rabid when high, is grateful to Santa. Jewish Dancer asks what happens if Christmas falls on Hanukkah; then her trite shtick veers off elsewhere.

Things turn more serious with Donner, Rudolph's once unemployed father. With his son's bad legs, horrible disfigurement and childlike mind, the rueful Donner had to accept Santa's offer, even if the big guy molests little boys.

A bisexual pin-up girl who sleeps around, Vixen says "a woman is only a slut if she meets with some degree of success." I won't reveal if she decides to press charges, but her reasoning makes wry, alarming sense.

At a preview, the bright cast winked hard. Standouts included Jonathon Markanday's guilt-ridden Donner, Sara Reimen's throbbing Vixen, Angi Taylor's militant Blitzen, Michael J. Taylor-Guanci's swishy Cupid, Brat Potts's boffo Dasher and Phillip C. Armstrong's homeboy Comet.

Director Kevin Brown situates things at a Christmas party in a bar. That's why the reindeer spill the dirt. They paw the floor, too.

The 90 minutes without intermission lapse into a methodical lull. Brown keeps the cast onstage (ordering drinks, quietly chatting), but as if in strange, suspended animation, they don't react to the monologues. Yet Brown mixes comedy with commentary well.

Ron Spencer's terrifically tacky set -- the Toy Box Bar -- is done in Crayola colors. Peanuts sit on salt licks. A buck and doe indicate the restrooms. Tacked onto a wall is a poster of "The Deer Hunter."

The costumes pale in comparison, but coats are furry body suits. And all wear fuzzy antlers.

Call Star reporter Peter Szatmary at 1-317-444-6078.