Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Saturday, December 2, 2000

Play pokes fun with adult tale of sordid Santa

Special to the Journal Sentinel

Given our national penchant for dethroning heroes and deflating legends, it seems only fair that someone take a few shots at Santa.

If You Go

What: "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues"
When: Through Dec. 22
Where: Walker's Point Center for the Arts, 911 W. National Ave.
Tickets: $10 in advance, $12 at the door; call (414) 444-2316.

Pot shots at Santa are exactly what is being served up via In Tandem Productions' presentation of "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues," written by Jeff Goode. The show opened Thursday evening at the Walker's Point Center for the Arts.

In this wildly askew view of North Pole goings-on, Santa stands accused of sexually assaulting one of "The Eight," the team of reindeer that guide the sleigh on the big night. The accusation comes from the unfortunately named Vixen.

The show, directed by Christopher Joseph Flieller, is simply set, with a witness stand placed at center stage. The space is a black box theater that is limply decorated with Christmas lights. A recording of such Christmas classics as dogs barking "Jingle Bells" and the Swingle Singers crooning their way through "Messiah" excerpts serves as pre- and post-show music.

Various reindeer take the stand, giving testimonies that paint a nasty, sordid picture of Santa and Mrs. Claus. The story of the assault slowly unfolds, along with tragic story of Rudolph and the individual sagas of some seriously dysfunctional reindeer.

A tight-lipped Dasher opens the testimonies, consumed by anger over the one year he did not lead the team. It was one foggy night. . . . Through clenched teeth he describes a mutant deer named Rudolph, who stepped in just that once and is now immortalized in song and story.

Hollywood, a newcomer to the team, prattles endlessly about movie rights and the fact that no reindeer has ever won an Academy Award. Cupid, who believes all of his trouble in life can be traced to his name, is gay. And so their stories go.

The testimonies are funny, if wickedly so, and occasionally quite explicit. The actors, dressed in street clothes and reindeer headgear, move from biting humor to deep anger and angst in mere seconds, for the most part keeping the momentum of their stories and the energy of show in motion.

Actors Christopher Spott, Aaron Orear, Patrick Holland, Leah Delaney, Giovanni Ortega, Stacey Meyer, Timothy Reynolds and Tiffany Boeke create decisive, unique, deeply flawed characters, which is exactly what makes the show work. The cast handles their roles seriously, making the audience listen to every word.

The flier advertising the show states: "Due to adult subject matter and language, no one under 17 admitted without a parent." Believe it. This is funny stuff but not family entertainment.