Chicago Tribune - December 5, 2007

'7 Santas'

By Nina Metz | Special to the Tribune

In Jeff Goode's "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" - a perversely entertaining, for-adults-only holiday comedy from the mid-1990s - old Santa gets a very bad rep. So you know where Goode's head is at. The guy is more sourball than candy cane, and his play has become an annual staple nationwide.

And Chicagoans have the chance to see Goode's latest jab at Father Christmas, "7 Santas," in its world premiere at the Bailiwick Repertory. One half is hilarious and smartly crafted; the other half is confused and, frankly, kind of gross.

Fans of this once-Chicago-based playwright know the drill - his approach is not for traditionalists. At a North Pole AA meeting, seven different Santas - all meant to be the same guy, like a Holy Septet of Santas - take their place at the podium and give their laments. "How do you think it feels to be thought of as merry and gay," bellows one Santa, "looooooong after that definition has changed?"

The remaining Men in Red offer not so much a purging of the soul as their own take on the Santa Claus myth, deconstructing it bit by historically accurate bit. Goode may be out to skewer the fantasy, but he does it by going back and studying the progression as it blossomed from urban legend into the stuff of global sanctity.

In most Christmas stories, Santa Claus never really develops into much of a character, so Goode's take feels especially fresh. And director Robert Bouwman along with costume designer Kitty Mortland (who gives each Santa a distinctive look) do a nice job creating an alternative universe populated by out-of-control Kringles.

"7 Santas"
When: Through Dec. 30
Where: Bailiwick Arts Center, 1229 W. Belmont Ave.
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Tickets: $15-$25 at 773-883-1090