Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati Enquirer - Thursday, December 13, 2001

Refreshing 'Reindeer Monologues' a welcome gift
Theater review

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ho! Ho! Ho! Political satire in Cincinnati! That's what I call a Christmas present from the new Queen City Off-Broadway, which has found a classy venue for out-of-the-mainstream theatrical fare Upstairs at Carol's.

        Santa Claus gets to stand in for every politico accused of sexual misbehavior from Clarence Thomas to Bill Clinton in Jeff Goode's savagely funny The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, in which Dasher, Dancer, Comet, Cupid and Co. take the stage one-by-one to tell what they know in an increasingly dark comedy.

        Dasher comes first, embodied at this performance (roles and cast change) by a swell Brian Fardo, looking more like a dock worker than a lead reindeer. One of the show's conceits is to costume to personality. Of course, the bucks sport antlers.

        Beer-bellied Dasher has a clear Rudolph Complex. As to the story that's going around, he says mysteriously, he doesn't know and he doesn't want to know.

        Little by little the “story” comes to light. Bitchy and gay, Cupid has more to say about Mrs. Claus. New recruit Hollywood, all flash and slime as nicely interpreted by Bill Keeton, is worried about treatments and picture deals.

        Blitzen (an energetic Missy Matherne) is an activist rousing the audience with Big Accusations — “We're treated like livestock!” — and an even Bigger Question — “Why would Vixen lie?”

        Curtis Shepard is effective as Comet, the young deer gone bad who's saved by St. Nicholas.

        It's a pleasure to see Gina Cerimele Mechle back on stage, here as Dancer, the nice Jewish dumb bunny doe. Dancer dreamed of a career in ballet and has been driven by — something — into drink.

        Donner, it turns out, is Rudolph's father, and Gary Robinson quietly chills with his story. Finally there is Lynn Meredith's Vixen, whose finger points just as accusingly at the media circus set loose on victims as it is at that old perv Santa.

        Directors Lyle Benjamin and Carrie Ellen-Zappa do a nice job with the actors and the space. The lighting is horrible, but artistic director Mr. Benjamin promises new lighting for February outing Two Rooms.

        Cincinnati is a desert when it comes to alternative work and alternative spaces. With The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, Queen City is looking like it might just be a refresher for a parched audience.