Lansing City Pulse - December 19, 2007

Strong acting pulls heavy sleigh in 'The Eight'

Written by Tom Helma   

It's a good thing Santa doesn't have any more reindeer than he already does. Eight is enough.
Jeff Goode's "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" is an adults-only, sometimes comic look at what "really" goes on at the North Pole. 

It reveals way too much information about what Mr. and Mrs. Claus, along with the reindeer and elves, do with too much time on their hands. Occasionally this is funny, until Goode pushes the envelope of mythic deconstruction so far one asks: "What's the point here?" It is one thing to destroy the tender innocence of childhood, quite another to paint St.
Nicholas as a pedophile who also engages in bestiality with reindeer.

The Ledges Playhouse Theatre Co. has assembled an all-star cast for this production at the Creole Gallery, bringing some of the best actors in town to this bizarre tale. Ben Holzhausen opens the show with a steroid-pumped version of Dasher that is entirely funny and raises expectations for a comic romp through playful, post-childhood consciousness. James Houska follows with a screamingly hilarious and flamboyantly gay Cupid.

Things start to slip over entirely to the dark side with Marni Darr-Holmes' Nazi-like rendition of Blitzen. Darr-Holmes does a magnificent job of laying out the initial allegations against Santa, so much so that spontaneous laughter disappears and the audience gets really quiet.

Robin Harris almost rescues this twisty plot as Comet, recounting a troubled "buckhood" and Santa's intervention to save him from the streets. Harris is all New Jersey in this role, sprinkling his performance with enough "deeze" and "dozes" to make Tony Soprano proud.

The play goes completely strange in Act 2, beginning with the light and air-heady revelations of the bimbo Dancer, as played by Tanya Burnham, which is followed by the compellingly painful performance of Terry Jones as Donner, the conflicted father of Rudolf, who is referred to throughout the play as a simple-minded buck with a facial disfigurement.

Donner states somewhat unequivocally that Rudolf was buggered by Santa and that he looked the other way, because he thought the fame that Rudolf would gain leading the reindeer was worth the sacrifice. What's that expression? Ewww? And all this time we thought he was just a cute little reindeer.

Wrapping things up is Laura Croff, as Vixen, who brings back some of the humor of Act 1, while also portraying the rage of a doe allegedly raped by Santa. Croff, like Jones before her, brings some very strong acting to a ludicrous idea.

Perhaps Goode knows he is being bad, representing a seriously sick North Pole scenario as nothing more than a metaphor for a society that hides its secret sins only to present us with romantic visions of sugar plum fairies and roasting chestnuts each year at Christmas.


'The Eight: Reindeer Monologues'
Through Dec. 23
Ledges Playhouse Theatre Co.
Creole Gallery
1218 Turner St., Lansing
8 p.m. Friday & Saturday
7 p.m. Sunday
(517) 679-1052