Encore Michigan
December 28 - January 3, 2010

Reindeer Games like you've never seen

By John Quinn

Awakening the Morning After befuddled and bemused is not a new experience for me, but is usually associated with intemperate doses of cheap scotch the Night Before. This time I'm trying to piece together my evening at The Box Theatre in Mount Clemens, where I took in opening night of The Eight: The Reindeer Monologues. I'm just not sure what I saw.

The title is helpful. If Clement C. Moore's traditional octad were given voices, they might have more to say about Santa Claus than the poet did. In fact, there may well be a darker story behind Rudolph the Red-Nosed that Gene Autry couldn't reveal. Perhaps a good holiday satire can burst the giant parade balloon that is the institutional Santa Claus. But none of that gives us a handle on The Eight.

It can't be satire; it lacks the "class, taste and discretion" - not to mention the focus - of satire.

I suppose it can be described as a dark comedy, if your idea of comedy centers on Evil Santa, a jolly old elf accused of serial bestiality and pedophilia. Perhaps spiking the holiday punch with conduct unbecoming the season and enough offensive stereotypes for everybody can add a kick to bland traditions. In the end, though, The Eight: The Reindeer Monologues comes off as naughty for naughty's sake. One wonders if playwright Jeff Goode still resents not getting that Lionel train set he always wanted.

In short, Vixen has accused Santa Claus of raping her in the workshop. She threatens to boycott the flight Dec. 24, and other deer line up for and against the strike. Through their eight speeches we piece together the story of a dysfunctional North Pole rife with abuse and neglect. While the structure of eight solo performances works well on the tight stage at The Box, it is unfortunate that the cast is unable to enliven a fundamentally static genre. Monologue is monotonous.

Vixen the victim has one of the most memorable lines of the night when she describes Santa Sex as "vulgar, humiliating and ultimately futile." That, for me, pretty much sums up the show.


The Box Theatre, 51 N. Walnut St., Mount Clemens. Friday-Saturday through Dec. 18. Tickets: $14. For information: 586-954-2311.