Contra Costa Times - December 6, 2007
In fact, if you're the sort of person who can spend hours gazing at a Hallmark ornament display, don't go near this alternative holiday offering from Act Now!, currently playing at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.
On the other hand, if you suspect there is something naughty, or perhaps downright evil, in Santa's twinkling eyes or bawdy chuckle, "The Eight" is just your slice of perverse holiday fruitcake.
Simply calling the play dark would be like calling Niagara Falls damp. Directed by Stephen Murphree, the show is wicked, vicious, at times profane, and in horrible taste. Descriptions of the private parts of Santa, elves and reindeer are often graphic. And the activities alleged in this Rashomon-style series of monologues about Santa's unwelcome and actionable sexual harassment of the reindeer Vixen are far from what, as the famous poem goes, father saw when he tore open the curtains and threw up the sash.
Some of you will find this devilish parody of the current socio-sexual-political scene absolutely hilarious. And the rest of you -- well, let's say you were warned, so don't phone me.
Act Now!'s production is uneven, with the monologues (each reindeer appears onstage individually, clad for the most part in ordinary clothing and either horns or just ears) telling a different version of the story of the alleged Santa/Vixen incident. Some are more graphic than others, some siding with the jolly old elf, some trying to roast his chestnuts for good.
Several of the actors push the parody too hard -- trying to punch up what should be a naturalistic monologue from which the humor emerges from the bizarre story rather than a full-tilt, kick-out-all-the-stops acting job.
Several of the performances, on the other hand, have the deft touch needed to capture playwright Jeff Goode's off-kilter dark humor. Peter MacArthur, Bill Clemente and John Hale are particularly impressive.
Reach Pat Craig at 925-945-4736 or firstname.lastname@example.org.