Time Out Chicago - November 29, 2007

7 Santas

INSANITY CLAUS Bailiwick suits up seven Nicks.

Bailiwick Repertory Theatre. By Jeff Goode. Dir. Robert Bouwman. With ensemble cast.

In her adaptation of Elizabeth Crane’s short-story collection When the Messenger Is Hot, which premiered at Steppenwolf last summer, Laura Eason solved the problem of dramatizing the central character’s internal monologues by splitting her into three: a trio of actors representing different aspects of Crane’s Josie could talk among themselves. Todd Haynes’s I’m Not There employs six actors to portray sides of Bob Dylan. With 7 Santas, Goode (revisiting the holiday cynic’s vein he first mined in The Eight: Reindeer Monologues) takes the tactic to old Saint Nick himself. Seven cast members portray components of the Santa legend, with an eighth as the embittered Mrs. Claus.

Harder to swallow is the show’s setting, in a North Pole rehab meeting run by the wife. It seems Santa’s a court-ordered guest after a DUI arrest, as we learn from the first speaker, a sort of Santa Prime. The six others soon take their turns at the lectern; among them are a Santanomics-minded Kringle and a Bible-reading Saint Nicholas. These monologues, which make up the first act, are hit or miss. But the dissonant second act, in which the various Santas and Mrs. Claus bicker in 12-step talk about the natures of both Christmas and addiction, just drones on, and Goode recycles material he’s already used in The Eight (there’s maybe something weird and pedophilic about the man with the bag, got it, thanks). Like his rosy-cheeked, inebriated Claus, Goode might’ve been better off stopping at one.