Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago Sun-Times, December 26, 1997

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues (*Recommended)
Kevin M. Williams
Things not to bring to "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" include: extreme reverence for Santa Claus, anybody under 18 years of age, and an inability to laugh at anything.

"The Eight" has punch lines and howls aplenty, but its core is an exploration of the dark side of Christmas. (We are talking very dark here, with Santa portrayed as a drunken pervert and with various themes of abuse.)

Author Jeff Goode's setting unravels this sordid tale through the testimony of the eight hoofed airwalkers. Santa's reputation--and the fate of Christmas--are on the line, as all wonder if Vixen will prosecute St. Nick.

Delightful performances abound, beginning with the stoic team player Dasher (James Asch) who wonders why Rudolph was really given the lead that famous Christmas Eve.

Cupid (David Mersault)--in leather pants and studded dog collar--tells his story with a wink, a leer and hilariously over-the-top zeal. Of Santa, Cupid says, "He was a holly, jolly, sex crime waiting to happen."

The mindlessly self-absorbed Hollywood (formerly Prancer, played by Doug Simpson) rips Rudolph's movie, and the strident, militant feminist Blitzen (Jane deLaubenfels) is downright creepy, declaring "The sleigh ride is over!"

Gloom enter upon the hooves of Donner (Miles Stroth), as we learn just how far a reindeer will go for a place on the team. Stroth perfectly depicts a resigned father coming to terms with his misdeeds. "I only wanted Rudolph to have more than I did," he says with a sigh.

The seductive Vixen (Nora Newbrough) is a show-stealer, slinking about in a clingy black dress and high heels. She concludes the tale, dishing the dirt on Santa.

At the end, Goode leaves you wondering whether Vixen does the right thing in resolving the Santa situation, whether St. Nick is guilty, and what kind of nuts are we for finding such a dark comedy funny and engrossing.