Greater Milwaukee Today
January 9, 2014

'Reindeer Monologues' an alternative to holiday season

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

WAUKESHA - "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" is not for the squeamish. If Christmas is an undiluted sentimental feast for you, you will have problems with the tone of scandal and irreverence that dominates this production by Jeff Goode. But for those of you who are open to looking at an alternate point of view, especially after the holidays when we're all a bit sated with the hoopla, you'll enjoy it. The Lake County Playhouse in Hartland has gathered together eight fine actors to take the roles of "the elite eight," who drive Santa's sleigh. Each gives us his or her perspective on a variety of subjects from the character of Santa and Mrs. Claus, the interactions among the reindeer, the intrusion of Rudolph, the dangers of flying in bad weather conditions, and just the general life of this particular special species.

We Americans love satire. Anyone or anything is a potential target for our brand of humor.

We seem particularly amused if a person of power and pristine reputation is brought down. Those who present themselves as flawless are particularly vulnerable to a downfall that delights us. Thus, Santa is maligned and never has a chance to defend himself. However, one of the reindeer, Comet, presents a pretty strong case in his favor.

Each reindeer, beginning with Dasher, the leader of the pack, has his 10 minutes on stage to tell his or her story. All of the stories are fascinating. Mike Crowley flubs some lines but still comes across as strong and competitive. He hated the year that he was upstaged by Rudolph and considers himself far superior to the little runt with the red nose.

Next comes the insecure, effeminate Cupid, stunningly enacted by Phil Stepanski. There's lots of humor here but a good touch of pathos, as well.

Scott Prox as Prancer ( aka Hollywood) is very ego-driven and really believes that there should have been a movie made about him. Prox is a little uncertain about his lines at times but captures the bravado of Prancer's character.

Blitzen, a brassy feminist strongly rendered by Lisa Rowe, sticks with the other two females in the group regarding Vixen's rape charge. You don't want to mess with Blitzen. At the beginning of Act II, Comet enters, setting a completely different tone. Bryan Noll is especially effective in his defense of Santa as a kind man who helped him rehab his tattered life. After all the vilifying remarks of others, Comet's perspective offers a striking contrast.

One of the most delightful monologues is delivered by Dancer, played by Tarolyn Fulkerson. The way she gracefully flits about the stage telling her poignant story completely captures our hearts. Donner, Rudolph's father, enters next. His tale, morosely regaled by Jon Jones, reveals the tortuous decisions people sometimes make and the unforeseen results that can ensue. Other than shouting too much, Jones was effective.

Lastly, Vixen takes the stage, a climactic moment. Ramsey Schlissel aced her part as the sexy, histrionic babe. She defended her promiscuity and contradicted the assumption that many make that a woman's appearance and history are an invitation to rape. The perpetrator-victim model is clearly seen here. People in power often write their own rules. This well-written play has many funny lines. The language is unforgiving; the situations, graphic; and the issues raised, provocative. This is a play about power, about idols with feet of clay. Some people need heroes, some people hate them, and some love toppling them.

For a postseason switch in style, "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" fits the bill. It is well directed by the versatile Carl Liden.

"The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" is staged at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Lake Country Playhouse, 221 E. Capitol Drive, Hartland. Call 262-367-4697 or visit