Los Angeles Times - December 14, 2007

Santa Claus, sevenfold

Continuing his satirical skewering of yuletide cheer, playwright Jeff Goode's new "Seven Santas" is a companion piece to his popular "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues." Although independent of each other, both employ a series of revelatory monologues to unearth dark secrets behind the seemingly benevolent doings at the North Pole toy factory.

Previously, Goode invested each of Santa's reindeer with a distinct personality and agenda to conduct a "Rashomon"-like inquiry into the unseen Santa's misdeeds. Here, he pursues a similar end by a more metaphysical route: With Santa now the onstage focus, seven actors portray different facets of the Big Man's fractured identity. The result is a witty collision of myth and very adult issues as the performers take turns tracing the events that led to Santa's court-mandated participation in a detox program.

Director Darin Anthony effectively guides his versatile cast as each personality fragment sheds new light on Santa's character. The iconic bearded Red (Michael Patrick McGill) begins in a surly state of denial. Businessman Klaus (Frank Ensenberger) coolly dissects the capitalist engine that keeps his enterprise solvent. Saint (Michelle Lema) tries to take the high road (the drinking is purely sacramental) while NiQ (Tisha Terrasini Banker) is a haughty, materialistic fashionista. Jolly Old Elf (Rod Sell) is the problem-solving pragmatist, Kringle (Bjorn Johnson) takes fondness for children to unhealthy extremes, and Big S (Chris Erric Maddox) is a hilariously pimped-out hip-hop gangster. Outside perspective comes courtesy of the ex-Mrs. Claus (Samantha Bennet), who now runs the North Pole rehab program. Sherry Linnell's costumes are a hoot.

The lively, increasingly outrageous serial monologues slyly weave in elements of sex, drugs and other unsavory topics. However, some further tuning is needed. All Goode's verses and all Goode's pen haven't yet put Santa together again.


Philip Brandes

"Seven Santas," Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Dec. 22. $20. (323) 882-6912 or www.openfist.org. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.