iBrattleboro.com - December 12, 2005

Review: The Eight
   Monday, December 12 2005 @ 04:46 PM EST
Contributed by: phayvanh

EntertainmentThe Eight: The Reindeer Monologues by Jeff Goode

One of the best gifts that community theatre can give the audience is the opportunity to exercise its imagination. Thursday night's production of "The Eight" did just that.

The stage was empty except for several bales of hay. Actors were dressed in street clothes with only red and green felt antlers and brown noses suggesting their animal identities. As the story unfolded with each monologue, the audience was tasked with balancing a tightrope between absurdity and realism.

That tension was what drove the play forward. These were reindeer who do rather "normal" reindeer things: modeling for Playboy, giving "snout", dancing ballet, reading Hollywood scripts-all so familiar to us humans that it was hard not to see the actors as people. The ridiculousness of the North Pole antics provided much of the humor of the play. But as the very real emotions, allegiances, and consequences were revealed, humor gave way to overwhelming tragedy. Both these qualities were why the one-act was billed "for adults only". This and themes of sexual perversion and predation.

All actors did a sublime job of nailing their characters and infusing them with energy and conviction, though opening night jitters caused a few stumbled lines. Richard Epstein as Dasher appropriately opened the play with a team captain's rallying cry--earnest and egoistic. We saw him as macho, in it for the thrill of it. But when Beth Kiendl's Dancer shared that long glance with him before her secret was revealed, we come to understand how big his heart really is. Also notable was Donner, played by Harry Bauld. Here was a man-I mean deer-whose exuberant parental optimism led him to take risks he could not regret, despite his son Rudolph's current mental mess. "I don't know," he repeated near the end of his soliloquy. "I don't know." In him were the voices of every working class person still struggling with his demons.

Still, it was hard not to laugh at the ex-herd deer from Medford in his wife beater and ballcap. He's brazen enough to call his son retarded and crippled. He told us Vixen (Nan Mann) is the only one who looked good in leather straps and sleigh bells. She gave a flirty snout wiggle and the audience cracked up. The anecdotes are meant to get a rise-reindeer vaginas, Santa's Jolly Big Elf, his home for trouble deer, venison feminism. Each guffaw hurt though. Deer by deer, Santa's uncontrollable psychosis grew more monstrous until the viewers also fell victim to it, simply by witnessing.

We were forced to do no less than the deer themselves, which was to sit through the dark until the house lights came up. In the darkest hour, Vixen threatened to escape to Florida so she could "be normal". What isn't absurd about a reindeer in Florida? What isn't tragic about a doe trying to run from her traumatic past? I don't know.

Fade to black.