St. Louis Post-Dispatch
December 8, 2009

HotCity greets the holidays with a smirk

By Judith Newmark

Sassy and scandalous, "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" is a holiday show the way that a family fight is holiday custom.

It may not capture the spirit of the season, but it can be pretty entertaining to watch.

Playwright Jeff Goode (rhymes with "food") and HotCity director Sarah Armstrong do, indeed, entertain us in quasi-holiday style. But although their little tale involves the unsavory goings-on at a certain North Pole workshop, "The Eight" isn't really about Christmas at all. It's a smart, acerbic musing on scandal in a tabloid-TV world.

Before the play begins, the fat's already in the roaring fire. The provocative Vixen (Julie Venegoni) claims that Santa assaulted her; something terrible has happened to the tragically deformed Rudolph, too.

As the members of Santa's elite reindeer corps step forward, one by one, to share their "inside" stories, they seem strangely familiar. Despite their antlers (cleverly created by costumer Felia Davenport to reflect their personal styles), we realize how well we know these characters.

There's the angry feminist Blitzen (Kim Furlow) who leaps to Vixen's defense, the egocentric Hollywood (Tyler Vickers) who can't help seeing how these unfortunate developments might mean good things for his career, and Santa's loyal defender, the former gang-banger Comet (Rusty Gunther, who manages a hilarious performance as his waistband inches down his thighs).

Dasher (Robert A. Mitchell) seethes with resentment, fey Cupid (J.J. Sitzmann) thinks it's all a big joke, and alcoholic Dancer (Kari Ely, in leg-warmers) can't exactly keep her train of thought. There's even a pathetic reindeer, Rudolph's worthless father Donner (Alan Knoll), to remind us that behind the titillating gossip, hey, there's a human. . . um, cervine ... tragedy!

Could Geraldo Rivera ask for a better lineup? Could Nancy Grace or Harvey Levin or that "Access Hollywood" pair?

Obviously, "The Eight" isn't for kids (HotCity suggests it's not for anyone under 18) or the sentimental. But if you like a dash of acid in your eggnog, you'll appreciate this smart comedy. With a punch of recognition and a jab of satire, "The Eight" puts scandal-mongering in its rightful place, remote and frozen.