November 7, 2008
With its cuddly title - "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" - Jeff Goode's play, which opens tonight at the Hermosa Beach Playhouse, sounds like ideal holiday entertainment for the whole family. It is not. And it is particularly not appropriate for younger children.
In fact, says director Stephanie Coltrin, families that show up at the theater with young children in tow will be encouraged to make alternative plans.
Though it has its share of funny moments, "Reindeer Monologues" is, at heart, a North Pole expos and parable about race and gender discrimination, sexual abuse, and misconduct in the workplace.
It turns out that jolly Old Saint Nick has been a lot more naughty than nice.
"It's really funny," says Coltrin. "But it's adult funny. It's `Bad Santa' funny. It's about how Santa is accused of sexually harassing his reindeer. It's a little more palatable because they are reindeer. But the content is very strong."
Eighteen months ago, when Coltrin and James Blackman, president of Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities, decided to present "Reindeer Monologues," it felt like a cool alternative to another "Christmas Carol."
"It seemed like a good choice for an edgier type of Christmas show. Now I'm a little worried because the economy is so bad and people are so depressed. Maybe we should have done `A Christmas Carol,"' says Coltrin with a nervous laugh.
First produced in 1994, Goode's play takes the touchy topic of sexual harassment and puts it in a context designed to make it more acceptable and comedic.
Hey, who really knows what goes on at the North Pole those other 364 days of the year? This play offers the inside story that inquiring minds want to know.
Headline: Claus Pleads: I Did Not Have Sex With That Reindeer!
"It's as though the eight reindeer are being interrogated by some North Pole committee," says Coltrin. "But they're all in street clothes according to their character. The boys have antlers, the girls have big ears. And they all have little black noses."
"The North Pole is like any other workplace environment," says Don Fowler, who plays Rudolph's long-suffering father, Donner. "Each of the reindeer is a specific character, which is what makes the play work. Prancer is a Hollywood style queen; Blitzen is an outspoken feminist; Dasher is their leader, sort of a football coach type of guy; Dancer is a total ditz; and Cupid is the only openly gay reindeer, though the policy seems to be - don't ask, don't tell."
Problems have arisen because the boss in the red suit has crossed the line one too many times and has been accused by Vixen of sexual conduct unbecoming.
And then there's poor Rudolph, say Coltrin, who along with Santa is referred to but does not appear in the play.
"The vet told him he would be deformed for the rest of his life with a face no doe could love," she says, with motherly concern. "He's been traumatized by Santa and can't speak after witnessing him supposedly raping Vixen."
Since its premiere, "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" has proved remarkably successful, with numerous productions to its credit. But, as Coltrin points out, "It's really for those who can embrace the dark side."
Jim Farber (310) 540-5511, Ext. 416 Jim.Farber@dailybreeze.com
THE EIGHT: REINDEER MONOLOGUES
>When: Opens at 8 tonight and plays at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday,
2 p.m. Sunday through Nov. 16, with an additional performance at 2 p.m. this Sunday.
>Where: Hermosa Beach Playhouse, 710 Pier Ave.
>Information: (310) 372-4477.