Akron Beacon Journal - December 9, 2004

Reindeer laugh, call Santa names

Irreverent, adults-only satire at Players Guild offers outrageous fun, jaded look at holiday

Santa the pervert is coming to town?

That's the premise for The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, an alternative theater piece running through Wednesday at the Arena Stage at the Players Guild of Canton.

In this adults-only satire by Jeff Goode, Santa's eight reindeer dish out plenty of dirt about the jolly old elf.

The jaded, worldly reindeer Dasher (Don Jones) wears black sweats and talks about the pressure of being the No. 1 reindeer. Referring to his Christmas Eve flying gig, he admits running into cell phone towers that weren't there the year before.

With a New York accent, Jones kvetches that Rudolph gets all the attention for lighting the way on that infamous ``foggy Christmas Eve.''

``Foggy? My reindeer a--,'' he says.

In this highly irreverent show, Dasher calls Santa ``fat boy'' and alludes to a tragedy with Rudolph. As each reindeer speaks, the case slowly builds against Santa.

Playwright Goode is a witty wordsmith. The highly effeminate Cupid, played by Eric Coulbourne, says Santa ``has been a walking, talking, holly jolly sex crime waiting to happen for years now.'' Cupid's monologue, while funny, has the majority of the show's sexually explicit language.

A number of these famous reindeer are dressed scruffily and slouch around on chairs waiting for their turn to spill their guts. The subject matter meanders as Hollywood (Ross Rhodes) talks about his show-biz dreams and Dancer (Heather Wylie) complains about the ban on reindeer dancing. (In this show, the reindeer Prancer's name has been changed to Hollywood.)

The reindeer refer to Vixen as the team slut, who's involved in one of the ``most sordid events in North Pole history.'' Vixen, who's determined to tell all, is played with plenty of cynical attitude by Jacki Dietz.

Blitzen's feminist rantings make up one of the show's funniest monologues. Jodi Wilson's Blitzen defends Vixen, saying, ``When a doe says no, she means NO.''

Santa's character is defended by a couple of the reindeer, including the former thug Comet, played by David Sponhour. He says Santa turned his life around.

In this show, the North Pole is basically hell. Mrs. Claus is revealed as a sadistic monster who tosses elves around the room and drowns them in the punch bowl. We also learn that Rudolph is confined to a padded cell, talking to imaginary friends.

The play has a minimalist set designed by director Margene Rannigan, with eight chairs joined by what look like double reins. Images of snowflakes are projected on the back wall.

The play has no real ending to wrap up Santa's scandal. The eight monologues are largely isolated: The characters don't interact with each other at all, but do refer to each other at times within their monologues.

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues is a scant piece, clocking in at barely over an hour.

The show comes off best when it's most outrageously funny. A scene where Donner (Richard Reahm) talks about pimping his son, Rudolph, doesn't cut it because it tries to be serious.

Because of the raw subject matter, the Players Guild is not admitting anyone under age 18.

If you're an adult in the mood for a crazy take on Christmas, full of cynicism and twisted humor, The Eight: Reindeer Monologues is the show for you.

Theater critic Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or kclawson@thebeaconjournal.com.