Nashua Telegraph - December 23, 2004
By MEGHAN FULLER, Telegraph CorrespondentPublished: Thursday, Dec. 23, 2004
If you're in the mood for an unexpected, provocative comedy this holiday season, one with plenty of jaw-dropping, I-can't-believe-they-just-said-that moments, look no further than the Ghostlight Theater Company's upcoming show, "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues", to be performed Sunday and Monday, Dec. 26 and 27, at the Holiday Inn in Nashua.
Billed as an adult dark comedy, "The Eight" details a sexual scandal that has rocked the North Pole - and Santa Claus is the alleged offender. Each of Santa's eight reindeer takes to the stage, one by one, to recount what he or she did or did not see.
"I love this play because I truly believe that if I sat down a room full of people and made them watch a lecture on the atrocities of rape and the media's bloodlust for sex scandals, I would lose them in 10 minutes," admits the play's director, John Sefel. "But because this is so absurd, because we are able to play with the idea of Santa and the reindeer and this allegory, people can laugh and open themselves up to the message that is in this."
Written in the 1990s by playwright John Goode, the play parodies the sexual scandal that cast a cloud over the Clinton administration.
"At that time, the institution of the presidency was on the line, just as here there is the institution of Santa Claus," explains Sefel. "There is the institution of Christmas. And many of the reindeer argue, 'We don't care what happened. The institution of Christmas must be upheld over all else.' "
He admits that some people might think of the play as "one big offensive evening of theater," but he insists it is not. "It is irreverent because it needs to be," he says. "It is at times vulgar because people are at times vulgar."
According to Sefel, the show ricochets between what is gut-bustingly funny and what is just gut wrenching. It is a comedy with a message he hopes will leave the audience thinking, questioning and possibly even arguing with each other.
"No one is a real good person in this play," he says. "Vixen, the character at the center of the scandal, challenges you to box her in as a poor, little victim, because she's not. She's strong willed. She dresses provocatively and likes it. These are characters you might meet on the streets, but because we couldn't take eight monologues of that, they are also reindeer."
"How we're performing the play is just great," says actress Erica Newhall, who portrays Vixen. "John is a wonderful director. He actually had us rehearsing separately. We all worked one-on-one with him, so none of us saw the others practicing their monologues. He didn't want us influencing the other reindeer."
The other reindeer are probably not as you remember them from childhood. In this production, for example, Comet is a reformed gang member, Prancer is a prima donna and Donner is a deadbeat dad.
"This is anything but your typical Christmas production," says the show's producer, Brett Bergeron, "and this is exactly why we like it."
The Ghostlight Theater Company, which closes its inaugural season with this production of "The Eight," takes its name from an old theater superstition: You should always leave a stage floor light on to keep the ghosts away. It is an apt name for a theater troupe that tends to gravitate toward darker material.
"There's not always a happy ending, just like in real life," explains Bergeron, who also plays the role of Comet in 'The Eight.' "There's always good and bad, and sometimes the bad wins. We look at dark humor and a lot of Shakespeare, because real Shakespeare was bloody and gory and didn't always end happily. But it's incredibly entertaining and people still see the value in those plays," he adds.
The Ghostlight Theater Company made its debut in July with Shakespeare's "Richard III," set in the present day with the actors donning business suits rather than elaborate costumes.
"We gave it a political twist," recalls Newhall, "which was especially interesting in an election year."
The group is nomadic in nature, choosing to match its productions with the most appropriate venue. "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" called for a venue that was intimate, somewhat dark, and definitely adult. The troop settled on the Nashua nightclub Factory 57.
It was important for the show to play in Nashua, says Sefel, not just because many of the actors have ties to the area. "Nashua is a town that is experiencing a little theater Renaissance and, we thought, one that would accept and understand 'The Eight.' "
Unfortunately, the group has met with its share of bad luck along the way.
Factory 57 closed two weeks before the show was set to open — long after the programs and posters had been printed. Five of the eight cast members attended Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, Mass., and one cast member currently teaches in the theater department there, so the troupe turned to the school for help.
The theater department gave the Ghostlight the green light, and new posters were printed. The show was originally slated to open on Dec. 18 and 19 at the school, but on Dec. 16, the troupe learned that the college's administrative board had doubled the rental fee and was asking for a $1 million insurance policy. This proved to be prohibitively expensive for the fledgling group, and it was forced to cancel the Haverhill productions.
Nevertheless, the Ghostlight Theater Company remains committed to both the show and its audience.
"Life forges on, and we will definitely be in Nashua (at the Holiday Inn) on the 26th and 27th," says Sefel.
"We're proud of the fact that we are still going to perform," adds Newhall.
"This is the first time 'The Eight' is being done in New Hampshire, and we''''re honored to be doing it. So take a break from the busy holiday season. Come for a laugh. Come have fun."