Badger Herald, December 9, 1997

A dark comedy indeed

By Clare Mamerow
Entertainment Writer
December 8, 1997

"The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" is billed as a dark, dark comedy. This may not emphasize enough the gloomy character of this play. No doubt about it, "The Eight," written by Jeff Goode, has its funny moments. In fact, each monologue has several truly humorous bits. But in the end, it is a play that questions contemporary ethics and concludes that today's society is willing to sacrifice the truth to maintain an image.

"The Eight" is a series of monologues given by each of the eight reindeer (except Rudolph). Through each speech, it is discovered that Santa has been accused of raping one of the reindeer. Every one of the reindeer has something to say about this, from supporting the allegations with personal experience, to feminist ranting, to playing up the sainthood of Saint Nicholas. It becomes clear that each reindeer has something to gain or lose from the accusation. Consequently, they all come off as petty, jaded, or misguided. Interestingly, Santa never appears in the show to defend himself.

The familiarity of these characterizations is what makes "The Eight" so dark. We have heard all these arguments before in the Anita Hill hearings, in Paula Jones' accusations, and in the Marv Alpert trial. And just like the humans, the reindeer do not have any way to solve the problem. Instead of liberating the innocent, truth burdens the characters with turned-around accusations and invaded privacy.

Overall, the production of "The Eight" was fine, with a simple set that managed to show the splintering factions behind the facade of Christmas cheer. Cheryl Snodgrass' direction emphasized the humor while still making it evident that this play has a serious message. Ben Wood's gay reindeer, Cupid, was an audience favorite, while Donner, played by Lance Marsh, painted a bleak picture of class struggles and parental responsibilities, making the audience enraged and sympathetic to his plight. Rebecca Rosenak's Vixen, the accusing reindeer, managed to portray sexuality, intelligence and innocence, making the final monologue a moral speech with a message, rather than a vindictive hate speech about Santa.

Christmas meets "Court TV" in "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues." The play lives up to its billing. "The Eight" will not leave you with the hopeful, happy feeling you get after watching "It's a Wonderful Life" or "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas." But it is exactly the fact that "The Eight" is not afraid to portray society as it really is, without the candy-coated holiday cheer, that makes it worth seeing.

"The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" will be performed December 11-13 and 18-20 at the Helmsley Theatre. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the box office or by calling 262-1500.