The Eight: Reindeer Monologues is a funny, obvious, irreverent satire that deflates the warm, fuzzy tale of Santa and his reindeer by casting the fat bastard in the red suit as a horny drunken sod who feels up his hoofed henchman. This kind of thing pops up in lots of alternative Christmas fare: Santaís a pervert, elves are gay, Christmas has a perverse underbelly, etc. Iím not saying itís not funny, but itís a staple on everything from sketch TV shows to David Sedarisí NPR bits.
But Jeff Goodeís play has a bigger target than Santa and his reindeer: the collective denial, hypocrisy and oppressive weight of the holidays. Rather than a time for friends, families and communities to spread good will to men, Goode suggests, itís also an opportunity for the malice and ill will that defines us the rest of the year to shine at its most garishly perverse.
The eight reindeer (played by eight Chance theater stalwarts, all of whom give spirited, distinct performances) discuss their relationship with each other, Santa and the elves as one big family. But Santa is more Charles Manson than Bill Cosby. Alcoholism, rape, pedophilia and repressed memories of child abuse continually pop up in the eight monologues, which nearly equate Santa and his toy factory to Catholic priests and the inner recesses of their sanctuaries.
The Eight: Reindeer Monologues isnít all heavy. Each monologue has exquisitely humorous moments. But by playís end, when a female reindeerís sexual history is put on trial because she dares to claim sheís been raped, things do get intensely serious. Ultimately, Goode is taking on the entire institution of Christmas, and the sobering question he leaves us with is whether this orgy of consumerism might just be an elaborate smoke screen meant to disguise the rapaciously self-centered creatures whoíve concocted a most noble myth for the most ignoble of purposes.
Did I mention itís also really, really funny?
THE EIGHT: REINDEER MONOLOGUES AT THE CHANCE THEATER, 5552 E. LA PALMA AVE., ANAHEIM, (714) 777-3033. SAT., 4 P.M.; SUN., 6 P.M. THROUGH DEC. 18. $17-$20.