Miami Herald - November 30, 2005

Is nothing sacred? Apparently not


Yuletide schmuletide. It's not even December and already we are bombarded by 10 tons of Hanukkah happiness and Christmas cheer. Fortunately, (thanks to a rare licensing snafu that has two local theater companies presenting the same play at the same time) we have playwright Jeff Goode's The Eight: Reindeer Monologues to take the edge off the onslaught of good tidings, great joy and so much ho, ho, hoing.

Both the Sol Theatre Project and Underdog Productions are staging the play, with Underdog adding a preshow of Goode's The UnXmas Story, a short comedy of errors centered around the birth of Jesus. But The Eight is the main attraction and for good reason -- the play is a risqué and (at times) risky diversion from the typical holiday fare. Santa is a sex-crazed pervert, Mrs. Claus is an alcoholic who menaces the elves, Cupid is a flaming queen who likes it when Santa uses the whip, Comet is a recovering coke fiend, Rudolph is a physically challenged ''zoo baby'' and Vixen is a pole dancing, lingerie wearing . . . uh, vixen who claims Santa raped her in the toy shop.

The eight reindeer have assembled at a Fairbanks TV station to respond to Vixen's allegations. What transpires is a satiric evisceration of traditional Christmas lore that is at times silly, for the most part entertaining and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny.

Both productions utilize simple sets (Underdog goes with just a chair and props) and five-member casts, with several actors doing double duty. Most of the performances range from just OK to pretty good with stand-out performances by Underdog's Elena Maria Garcia (who is also the company's director) and Sol's Erynn Dalton.

Garcia absolutely kills as Dancer, the middle-aged Jewish reindeer in a blue velour track suit and very large eyeglasses. Garcia lobs her perfectly timed lines softly like water balloons, splashing laughs all over everyone as they land.

Dalton charges the stage as the super sexy Vixen, grinding on poles, flashing the audience and generaly putting her fishnet stockings and high-heeled boots to good use. but Dalton's energy and sheer animal magnetism (sorry, couldn't resist) brings the show to a satisfying if somewhat messy climax.

All that said, the star of both shows is, of course, the writing of Jeff Goode. It's offensive, it's obscene, it's the polar opposite (I really can't stop myself.) of all the Hallmark-style sentiments running amok. It's the perfect antidote to these holly jolly days.