PopThought.com - December 20, 2004
By Gina Wood and Joseph Frietze
What do you get when you combine eight mythic figures, the "Most Wonderful Time of the Year," and a sex scandal? You get a brilliant piece of work written by Jeff Goode called The Eight: Reindeer Monologues. And if you ever get a chance to see it, get off your butt. Unless, of course, you are easily offended by adult language, smoking, or cherished holiday figures being skewered with sarcastic wit. In that case you might want to watch another re-run of a Christmas special on basic cable.
This production of The Eight was held at The Circuit Playhouse in Memphis, TN. It ended its run Sunday night (12/19/2004) to a packed house. The set for the monologues was simple but very cool. There were two stables with a gate between them; on one hung a wreath, on the other hung a sign that said, "Remember Vixen." The addition of a pine tree and some white fluff set the scene as the North Pole. There was also a TV on a stand that is important to the plot, as the whole of the monologues is set up as a "Behind the Story" type of show.
The writing was sharp and funny. I hadn't expected it to have a heavy connecting theme but it was very well done. The actors were perfection. I could buy every one of them as the persona they were selling. Each of them were fantastic and the intimacy of the little playhouse made it that much more wonderful.
Now we all know Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen, or do we? And what about the most famous Reindeer of all? Well, he can't join in because of a catatonic condition, but more on that later. (Spoiler warning: The rest of this review gives some details for each of the monologues and the overriding theme of the show. If you have a chance to see this show yourself, you may want to avoid spoilage and go in blind for the full effect.)
What we do find out is that there are The Eight among reindeer circles and being one of The Eight is like being a god amongst ants. But being one of The Eight is no picnic either. Sure you only work one night a year and get full benefits. Sure you make lots of little boys and girls happy year round. And, of all the fabled creatures, you are in the pack with the most staying power.
But, there is a darkness lurking on the white snow of the North Pole. A darkness that has to be seen to be believed and, even then, some still doubt. Despite the Jolly Old Elf persona, Santa is that darkness. In fact Santa's Workshop is more a Little Workshop of Horrors, than a place where toys are churned out for good little boys and girls.
Each of The Eight steps up and states it as it is, or rather, as they believe it is. These are not your father's reindeer. These reindeer each have their own personalities, charm, wit, stories, and sadness. Dasher is our hard-boiled, no-nonsense soldier. He takes delivering toys to all the good little boys and girls very, very seriously. The hero among The Eight, as Donner puts it. He ran headfirst into a skyscraper and still continues to lead the pack. In fact, he always leads. Well, except for one foggy night. But when you hear about the ice storms he has seen, the blizzards he has flown through, you start to wonder about that one foggy night. And what was Santa really up to?
Then we move to disco dancing, partying, way out of the closet Cupid. Well, with a name like Cupid, what did you expect? He is a gossipy, flamboyant homosexual who doesn't care who knows. His bit is a deliciously raunchy tell-all that is too vulgar, despite being hilariously entertaining, to go into here. You have to see it to believe it.
Next up, is Prancer, excuse me, Hollywood. Apparently the one movie has really gone to his head. Additionally, Hollywood did the pre-emptive warnings about the language and situational content at the beginning when he announced the exiting procedures and thanked the sponsors. Kind of a slightly demented, yet charming stewardess. His piece (which included more than Vixen) mainly ranted about the unfair, racist practices of L.A. He's right of course, I mean, has a deer ever been nominated for an Oscar, even Bambi? His comments on Santa's Sex Scandal are limited, unlike Cupid. But, instead of taking a "no comment" stand, like Dasher, he has more than a few colorful (or off-color) comments about Vixen, one of the reindeer the scandal revolves around.
So enters Blitzen, our feminist activist. Wielding a sign proclaiming "The Sleigh Ride Is Over", she launches into a hilarious tirade ripping on Santa and how kids would rather believe that Mom opens their Santa Claus letters (committing a federal crime) instead that the madman exists. Her feminist rant is too much to go into this limited space (in spite of the fact that none of the monologues are more than ten minutes long) but absolutely gets digs in at not only Santa, but also the elves and bucks of the North Pole. As she stomps off, you can't help but smile and think, "well, she's got a point."
Comet, to say the least, is quite a piece of work. To say the most is that he is a rehabilitated junkie that owes his very life to St. Nicholas. So he's more than a little biased toward the Jolly Fatman. But he's also a riot. Much like Dasher regaling the crowds with his heroic flights, Comet recounts the drug filled days of his misspent youth. As he calmly quipped, "Marijuana was nothing new for us. I mean we ate the leaf. We just thought rolling it up in papers and smokin' it would be a new experience," I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe. Definitely one of many bright spots in this production.
Tiptoeing in on point, Dancer graces us with her presence. Seemingly a little flighty, we soon find that she is, in fact, quite grounded . . . in denial. As both Cupid and Blitzen alluded, all of the female (and one male) reindeer have had unwanted sexual encounters with Santa (it's the backbone of the investigation after all), but Dancer chooses to ignore it. And she's not very good at it. As she recalls some of her previous occupation (a ballet instructor) and discusses the tragic end of her dancing days, she states emphatically, "I'm not walking out. I need this job." It is sad and tragic and all of us can relate.
There is nothing worse than being a father, wanting only the best for your son, and realizing you did more harm than good. Donner recounts his and Rudolph's encounters with Santa. Originally not part of The Eight, Donner got the job only after Victor, Vixen's mate, died. As he puts it, "I had no hope of being one of The Eight. I got a bad back, I'm not a very good flyer, and I smoke." So what would cause Santa to offer the lucrative position to a buck who had a hard time putting feed on the table? The buck had a "special" someone that Santa took an unhealthy interest in. And there is nothing more heart wrenching than to watch a guilt-ridden father try to explain, not excuse, the behavior of a pedophilic benefactor. As Donner says with pride, "My son led The Eight. My facially deformed, child-like son who would have been better off dead led The Eight." Sometimes the worst decisions are ones a parent should never have to make.
Finally, Vixen slinks in. She is promiscuous to the point of success so she is, as she puts it, a slut. And the whole of this sexual scandal rests on her slim shoulders. She doesn't want this, the attention, the activist groups, the walk out. She just wants to put it behind her. As lawyers question her character (as Santa's is beyond reproach) she pleads for everyone to just drop it . . . because she is. Going to drop the charges. There is nothing worse than knowing what happened to you, happened to others including the little retarded reindeer with the glowing nose. And becoming a pariah because you took a stand. Sometimes, you just have to put the past behind you and look ahead . . . to Florida.
Again, if you have a chance to see this playing in your area, go see it. It is well worth the ticket. And if you can't go to see it, I suggest trying to find a copy somewhere.
Here's a listing to see if it is playing in your area. Copies of the script can be purchased here as well: http://www.jeffgoode.com/pg8rm.htm