Newport Daily News - December 10, 2004

On the Town: Reindeer games

By James J. Gillis/Daily News staff

NEWPORT - If you're looking for a family-flavored holiday play about Santa and his reindeer, well, "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" isn't it.

Unless your idea of kiddie fare is a reindeer suing Santa for sexual harassment.

The Newport Repertory Theatre is tackling the Jeff Goode play tonight and Saturday and the following weekend at a new venue for the company, Seafare's American Cafe in Brick Market Place.

"It's definitely R-rated," said Kyle Bennett, the company's acting artistic director. "There are a lot of slice-of-life things in there. There are some funny parts, too."

The premise is that Vixen is suing Santa Claus for sexual harassment. This divides the reindeer community, some of whom are pro-Vixen, others pro-Santa.

"And some of the reindeer want to go on strike," said Bennett, who plays Comet. "They won't deliver any Christmas toys this year."

And where's the most famous reindeer of all? "Rudolph is in a padded cell somewhere; he's not involved at all," Bennett said.

The players performed the monologues three years ago at the former Area 22, now the Area on River Lane. This time around, Bennett said, the company was looking for a fresh venue.

Bennett began working as a waiter at the American Cafe in August, about the same time he was seeking a performance space for the play. His bosses liked the idea, particularly providing a dinner theater option.

Normally, Newport Repertory Theatre is housed at the Newport Congregational Church on Spring Street. "But we didn't think this was suitable for the church," Bennett said. "This opportunity came up and it's a slow time of the year (at the restaurant) so we're going to use this space."

The company is not, however, going to compete with the Newport Playhouse on the dinner theater circuit. Bennett said it may use the restaurant one more time before returning to the church, with "Hamlet" on tap for early 2005.

Actors in "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" include Ellen Davis, who is directing, Rick Bagley, Matthew James, Bennett, Chris Beelby and Kelly Williamson, among others.

Matthew Condon, who acts under the name of Matthew James, said he thinks the play is a good mix of satire, both light and dark. "There is a good deal of humor among the heaviness," Condon said.

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