Drama-Logue, December 12-18, 1996
The cynical Cupid (an amazing performance by Doug Hutchison) tells of the dark side of being different. Hollywood, the slick Jim Anzide, decries the use of animatronics in the making of [Rudolph] when they could have gotten the real thing: Him. Gwyn Fawcett's Blitzen announces that the "sleigh ride is over" and may join the strike against Santa while an overly intense Matthew Allen Bretz as Comet (aka "Skull") reads from notes to spout the party line in support of his bearded employer.
Dancer, a jaded hoofer, played to the hilt by Melanie van Betten, recounts her contract discussions with Santa, showing playwright Goode's wonderful way with words. Bob Clendenin appears to explain that it's not easy carrying the elite burden of The Eight.
Contrary to any notion that this might be strictly a comedic piece of holiday fluff, The Eight exhibits an opportunity to explore personalities from The Far Side with wonderfully anthropomorphic reindeer brought to life by commited professional actors under the expert direction of John Lovick. Lovick's time and energy pays off in subtle and believable characterizatons. The characters are moving and captivating. Hutchison's Cupid is poignant and sad. Wilson's Vixen, while sexy and alluring, at the same time brings the audience into great sympathy with a situation where the effect of being attacked is indisputable. "Think of it," says one of The Eight, "this guy can get into your house any time he wants? He sees you when you're sleeping???"
For adults who have a taste for the sardonic, The Eight is a perfect evening of excellent acting in an excellent play. Thought provoking satire sweeps the theatre, leaving the audience literally shaking with laughter and insights.
Gary Larsonesque visuals are well enhanced by Denise Caplan's simple costumes and three-toed gloves. Cheryl Waters did what she could with a limited lighting system.
For those who appreciate stage excellence, this is a must see production.
L.A. Weekly, December 13-19, 1996
Chicago Sun-Times, December 19, 1996
If you thought that Rudolph the red-nosed was the last word on the North Pole, by all means hitch up your sleigh and head to Zebra Crossing Theatre. But leave the kiddies at home: This wicked send-up is an adults-only offering in which the cheer served up is more Bronx than Christmas.
Playwright Jeff Goode has imagined the reactions of the eight airborne, antlered couriers if Santa were a rather randy fellow and if Mrs. Claus was known for having a few too many cups of eggnog at holiday time.
The eight humans who portray Dasher and Dancer, Comet and Blitzen, Donder and Cupid, Prancer and Vixen (we'll come to Rudolph) offer some of the finest comic turns on stage this season. Director Cheryl Snodgrass and the young Les Enfants du Maïs company have given Goode's scripts a near-perfect production.
The story unfolds through eight 10-minute monologues. It seems scandal has struck Santa's workshop, with accusatons and counter-charges and reputations on the line.
Dasher (a riotously prissy Seán Judge) is the company deer, not about to let changing mores interfere with his role as leader of the pack. As Cupid, the "first openly gay reindeer," Robert Felbinger struts and slithers about the tiny stage. "Take it from me," the knowing leather-buck offers, "Santa was a sex crime waiting to happen." For feminist reindoe Blitzen (the deadpan Inger Hatlen), "the sleigh ride is over" for Santa.
Mr. Claus has his defenders in the court of ruminant opinion. Comet (Doug Steckel), for one had been "a troubled deer" until St. Nick had turned him around. The ditzy Dancer (Jane deLaubenfels), who wondered whether the annual haul offered vacation and sick days, isn't sure that she knows whom to believe.
From Donner (James Thorn), Rudolph's father, we begin to learn the truth, including the destruction of his fragile son's sanity when Santa turned his affections toward Vixen (Clare Riordan).
Kristen Rengren's elaborate antlers are great. See "The Eight."
THE BOTTOM LINE - Recommended - A delightful adults-only send-up of both Christmas and the politically correct.
Chicago Reader, December 19-25, 1996