December 4, 2008
This season, patrons of the Naughty and Nice Bar and Grill, an exclusive members-only club for reindeer, aren't exactly singing in merry measure.
In fact, the entire North Pole is ablaze with rumor and scandal.
Inquiring deer want to know: What's the real story behind Rudolph's unlikely rise to fame? Did Mrs. Claus' drinking problem ruffle some feathers at the office Christmas party?
Even St. Nick himself is suspected of some very un-holly-jolly behavior. And with all this going on, how can the spirit of Christmas be saved?
"The Eight: Reindeer Monologues," the anything-but-family Yuletide play opening at The Paper Wing Theatre Company on Friday, lifts the veil of tinsel and peeks in on Santa's North Pole straight from the eight reindeer who know him best.
America's most produced dark holiday comedy, the New York Times once called "Reindeer" "a tart alternative to candy-cane cheer."
Playwright Jeff Goode is the author of numerous offbeat musicals and television shows, including Disney's animated series "American Dragon: Jake Long."
Goode said he penned "Reindeer" in 1993 for the No Shame Theater company he co-founded in Chicago.
Taking his cue from sex scandal news coverage in the early '90s of public figures such as Catholic priests and Clarence Thomas, he spoofed this same character assassination — with allegations aimed at Santa.
Over drinks and slot machines, each of Santa's reindeer takes a different stance on the Santa scandal and a sort of tabloid fury emerges, revealing tales of corruption and bad behavior.
"It's not so much about Santa being guilty as it is about the human tendency to base opinions on what we want to hear," Goode said in a phone conversation from his home in Los Angeles. "Somehow year after year the play stays relevant, and that may be partly why."
The play is directed by L.j. Brewer, no stranger to scandal himself for his award-winning role as transvestite Dr. Frank N. Furter in the Paper Wing production of "The Rocky Horror Show."
In "Reindeer" he plays Dasher, "a cross between Sam Elliott and Clint Eastwood who just wants to get back up on the sleigh and do the Christmas run."
Other reindeer with their antlers in a knot include: Alleged sexual harassment victim Vixen (Heather Hahn), Donner, Rudolph's alcoholic underachiever father played by Allen Ray Aston, Blitzen the feminist (Koly McBride), flamboyantly gay Cupid (Jay DeVine), Dancer (Natasha King) and Comet (Allison Smith).
Will they be wearing reindeer costumes?
"We looked into that, but a full reindeer costume costs $250," said Brewer, who is also co-owner of the Paper Wing Theatre along with Koly McBride. "They'll be dressed in brown and accessorized to fit their character."
Goode, who won the 2007 Los Angeles Drama Critics Award for "Love Loves a Pornographer," has been labeled everything from "angry, imaginative, crude and hopelessly over the top" (Chicago Tribune) to "a smarty-pants theater cult-god" (Northern California Bohemian).
"Reindeer," he said, began with a simple question, "How come Rudolph gets to be 'the most famous reindeer of all?' And how must the real reindeer feel having this fake guy as the most famous?
"From there it evolved, loosely based on a sex scandal taking place at the time in Chicago," he said. "A lot of people didn't think the play had much potential, yet it caught on in all the major cities and college towns. I never thought it would play in Boise, Kentucky and West Virginia but it has. I'm still working on Delaware."
Goode said it's definitely not a "message" play.
"I don't really like the concept of a 'statement.' I think people go to the theater to have fun or some kind of catharsis, but not to have their political values changed."
For Brewer, the play's message might be to "lighten up," or as one reviewer suggested, "look at it like an office gag gift from the adult bookstore."
It's never too late to add a little spice to the holidays — even if the lyrics "jump in bed, cover up your head 'cause Santa Claus is coming tonight," may never quite be the same.
Leslie Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.GO!
THEATER OPENING ·What: The Paper Wing Theatre Company Presents Jeff Goode's "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" ·Where: The Paper Wing Theatre Co., 320 Hoffman Ave., at Lighthouse, New Monterey ·When: Opens at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5; continues at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 21 ·Tickets: $15 general, $12 seniors and students, available online at thepaperwingco.com or at 675-0521; recommended for mature audiences ·Information: 675-0521 or online at thepaperwingco.com