Santa Cruz Sentinel - December 18, 2003

December 18, 2003

Antidote for a too sweet Christmas


If by now you’ve heard enough of the "Little Drummer Boy," and you’re ready to join the "Bah, Humbug" club — have I got a play for you!

Escape saccharine television fare and the vast world of ugly consumerism, shake off the sloppy sentimentalism and the oppressive bombardment of advertising, and get real.

Or rather, get unreal.

Pisces Moon Productions is giving you a chance to get away from the season’s sappy joyfulness and indulge yourself in an hour-and-a-half of pure bliss. The company’s gift to all you cynical celebrants is an evening of irreverent, irrelevant and irresistible satire, a show that deserves to become a holiday tradition (but probably won’t).

"The Eight: Reindeer Monologues," by Jeff Goode, is a wickedly clever black comedy that gives political incorrectness a whole new aspect.

Imagine the North Pole, Santa’s Workshop, Mrs. Claus, the elves and all the rest of that seasonal fluff. Now imagine what happens when the reindeer find themselves embroiled in all sorts of issues — elf abuse, labor violations, sexual harassment and some other issues that I’ll let you discover for yourselves.

"The Eight" are shocked and stunned, and each has his or her own take on the assorted scandals. Oddly enough, despite the hilarious and generally bawdy mood of Goode’s script, there is much gentleness and introspection in the play, and the evening ends on an unexpectedly poignant note.

"The Eight," of course, are the eight unique flying reindeer who pull Santa and his magic sleigh around the world on Christmas Eve, delivering toys to all the happy children.

OK, you’ve got that.

Now you get to meet them as interpreted by an ensemble of eight very clever actors. Directed with imagination and energy by two of the ensemble, Terri Steinmann and Christopher Sugarman, this octet creates a most unlikely vision of life at the North Pole — and believe me, it’s not all sugarplums.

The two directors are also the two flashiest reindeer. Steinmann plays Dancer with a splendid Valley Doe twist. She doesn’t have to say a word to crack up the audience, but when she does say something, it’s even funnier. Under the comedy, however, is vulnerability, and Steinmann does it all with real class.

Sugarman parlays his role as Cupid into a one-man show that goes far beyond describable. His send-up is entirely without redeeming social value — which means it is Sugarman at his very best and most outrageous, and his performance has to be seen (and heard) to be believed.

Daniel David Doane plays the intrepid Dasher with a tough biker’s belligerence, kicking off the evening’s monologues with fine spirit. Manirose Raley happily plays Blitzen as a gleeful provocateur. She’s a femi-nazi reindeer with her own agenda, so to speak; she makes her points without subtlety and without much regard for any of the other reindeer.

Prancer (aka "Hollywood") is presented with L.A. fervor by the delightful Nathaniel Meek, who gives us the treatment, baby, with appropriate self-indulgence while he bitterly denounces the good fortune of Rudolph (who isn’t in this play).

Linda Turner is Comet, a self-described nasty Hell’s Reindeer who is saved from a sinful past by Santa — and therefore owes allegiance to St. Nick for offering salvation and a second chance at life.

The versatile Randy Birch provides an unexpectedly intense monologue of pain and recrimination as the complex Donner. I won’t give away the story of poor Rudolph, except to say that Birch’s performance is wonderfully rueful.

The last of the gang of eight, Vixen, naturally, is the sexpot whose allegations are the basis for the evening’s entertainment, and Becky Armor winds up the show nicely as she takes the role by the antlers and gives a nice spin to her own wounded vanity.

"Reindeer Monologues" certainly is a thought-provoking satire, as it’s billed, but mostly it’s a darkly funny and provocative comedy that mocks gender and sexual politics with unrestrained pleasure.

It’s a typical Santa Cruz approach to the holiday season — so see it at your own risk. But it’s definitely not a Bambi story, so don’t take your kids. When Pisces Moon decides to debunk Santa Claus, they don’t fool around. Or, rather, they do.

Contact Ann Bennett at

If You Go

WHAT: ‘The Eight: Reindeer Monologues.’

WHERE: Broadway Playhouse, Santa Cruz Art League, 526 Broadway, Santa Cruz.

WHEN: Through Dec. 21, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday.

TICKETS: $15, adults only.

DETAILS: 429-2339.