Cincinnati CityBeat - December 7, 2005

Ho, Ho, Ho, No


If you're a theater fan, you probably face the same conundrum I do every December: A month of the same shows you've seen before. Of course, much of the charm of the holidays is returning to favorite things from the past. We decorate our trees with antique ornaments, we trot out sweaters and ties we've worn year after year, we go to visit our families and act as if it's the best moment of the year. That familiarity is a bit like comfort food: We know it's not necessarily good for us, but we like it anyway because we've enjoyed it before and we know how it makes us feel.

The Know Theatre Tribe's THE EIGHT: REINDEER MONOLOGUES is the group's third annual production of this dark, X-rated tale of sexual misconduct at the North Pole. Jeff Goode's script offers eight confessional speeches by Santa's reindeer, offering their own stories and views as to whether the Jolly Old Elf has been misbehaving.

The humor is sardonic at best, and you shouldn't go to see this if you like your holidays dressed out with sweetness and light. Among the reindeer are a foul-mouthed gay male, an alcoholic, a militant right-winger, an egotistical movie star, a ditzy ballerina, a lesbian, a former gang member and a slut. And the news we hear about Santa and the Mrs., not to mention poor Rudolph, is enough to sour your eggnog and curl your tinsel.

Having seen this before, I was dubious that it would wear well, but director Alan Patrick Kenny presents Goode's mean-spirited script through a Luke Brockmeier's inventive video filter and it's become a funny satire on reality TV shows. Each actor (the cast includes four undergrads from CCM's drama program plus several veterans from past productions) sits on the stage in the courtyard at Arnold's Bar & Grill and speaks while his or her image is projected on an elevated screen from several digital camera feeds.

Since they remain seated, the onstage action is pretty static, but the inventive video -- which offers back stories on each reindeer plus some funny public service announcements and other oddball holiday footage -- keeps the evening entertaining rather than depressing. Watching this show is a bit like downing shots of hard liquor: It burns and makes you gasp, but it offers a kind of adult satisfaction. Grade: B

copyright 2005 Lightborne Publishing Inc.