Tulsa World - December 16, 2003

In 'The Eight,' the cold at Santa's North Pole isn't all that's bitter

By MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer, 12/16/2003

ABOVE: Cupid, the openly gay reindeer played by Peaches Lennox, runs screaming through the audience in the play "The Eight: The Reindeer Monologues."
BELOW: The cast of "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" includes (from left) Scott Heberling, Joseph Gomez, Valerie Stefan (seated), Sara Cruncleton, Peaches Lennox, John Cruncleton, Lynn Kelsey (seated) and Mike Cramton. DAVID CRENSHAW / Tulsa World

OK, so he knows if you've been bad or good. But who watches the watcher?

Will the real "Bad Santa" please stand up?
"That man's been a walking, talking sex crime waiting to happen for years. You know how many hot, little (expletive) have been on his lap?" says Cupid, one member of Santa's sleigh team who offers up his opinion on the scandalous events taking place in "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues." But in playwright Jeff Goode's occasionally funny, farcical stab at Christmas conventions, its not enough for Cupid - Santa's only openly gay reindeer, we're told - to verbally assault us with this claim.
No, courtesy of performer Peaches Lennox, aka Ken Youngblood, we get a full visual effect with thrusting pelvis and more of what awaits good girls and boys when they hop up to tell the jolly old soul their Christmas list.
The scene is rude, crude and socially unacceptable - and it's pretty riotous, too, in this theater piece meant as an alternative for folks fed up with Christmas treacle.
The moment is so over-the-top campy and funny that it's surprising all of the other reindeer didn't follow Cupid's lead in Friday night's performance by the Nightingale Theater players.
The monologue-driven piece is clearly intended to induce cackling throughout, but "Reindeer Monologues" played out with a few solid laughs here and there, and a whole lot of bitterness.
Not cynicism - I expected that. No, these people largely just seem ticked off.
There a smile on your face immediately when Scott Heberling enters the small stage set, resembling a tiny coffee lounge/confessional room, wearing brown antlers and what appears to be black shoe polish on his nose.

Dasher's a tough guy, "the lead reindeer," he tells us. But as far as his reason for speaking to us -- smokin' reindeer Vixen has accused Santa of rape -- about all he wants to say is, "I don't know, and I don't want to know."
Cupid's up next, entering in a showy gown that's quickly removed to show what gay apparel he dons underneath: black leather chaps and a vest, with a bright red bottom and enormous eyelashes.
He works in a sassy, prancy style that borders on the creepy, looking like a cross between the biker dude in the Village People and the killer clown from Steven King's "It."
The other six members of "the greatest reindeer team in the world" also weigh in on matters -- solo monologues by each of "The Eight" -- as media arrive at the North Pole looking for hot follow-up stories in the growing sex scandal.
There's Hollywood (played by director John Cruncleton), who's worried about what effect the negative publicity could have on his film career (he used to be known as Prancer before his titular movie was released).
There's Blitzen (Sara Cruncleton), the angry feminist (who refers to St. Nick as a "libidinous troll of a man who knows when you're sleeping and when you're awake") who sees Vixen as the poster girl for a powerful rally.
There's a few more laughs to be had at Comet's expense, as a hilarious Joseph Gomez tells how Santa saved the young buck from a life of drugs and crime after he had fallen in with "some bad reindeer -- Hell's Herd."
Vixen is the last to be heard from, and newcomer Lynn Kelsey is powerfully effective as a reindeer who's clearly been assaulted, but doesn't want the trouble that this sexually explosive situation has focused on her.
There's a couple of other reindeer who weigh in, but they've got pretty much the same thing to say -- nobody's very happy, life at the North Pole is crappy and talk of the spirit of Christmas is sappy.
The whole point of this exercise? We're not quite sure, but when we heard someone suggest afterward how well he thought this show might work in a club atmosphere, we agreed that the risque material might seem funnier after tossing back a few.
The Nightingale Theater production of "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" continues with 8 p.m. performances Thursday-Saturday at its theater at 1416 E. Fourth St. Tickets are $10 and may be reserved by calling 583-8487.