New Theater Corps - Friday, November 30, 2007

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues

Jeff Goode's eight Santa-skewering monologues have a lot of creativity going for them: they're perverse, original, and witty. But they sort of hang out there in the open air, directionless reindeer; without a belligerent, drunken Santa breathing down their neck, the show is just a lot of one-dimensional banter.

Reviewed by Aaron Riccio

Screw the eggnog: these reindeer are into the hard stuff. If you thought the worst that Santa's reindeer would have to deal with this year were ice tornadoes (something the lead reindeer, Dasher [Robert Brown], will proudly boast about), then you're in for a nasty little treat. You see, Santa's been playing with "the jolly old elf," and if you listen to Cupid (Peter Schuyler), the only openly gay reindeer (his intro is the Electric Six song, "Gay Bar"), then you'll understand the horror of meeting his red and white member: "There's big Santa, little Santa, big Santa, little Santa," he squeals.

Of course, Santa's not just into the children on his lap -- having scarred them into repression (yes, warns the dutiful Blitzen [Rachel Grundy], trama's the reason kids stop believing in Santa) he now turns his attention to his reindeer. In particular, when he gets into a certain "mood" in the workshop, he likes to rape anything that moves -- like Vixen (Jennifer Gill) -- or to abuse the less capable of his staff, like Rudolph, Donner's retarded son. And so you'll get to hear a very depressed Donner (Jason Unfried) talk about his deal with the red-coated devil (there's a reason Santa and Satan share the same letters). If that's not enough, you can hear Hollywood (Geoffrey Warren Barnes III) brag about his upcoming motion picture -- the one that will put that Claymation crap to rest -- or you can hear the apathy of Dancer (Theresa Unfried) or the apologia of Comet (Amy Overman), a doe so forgiving that even her curses are "H-E-double hockey sticks."

That's all you'll get, though: Jeff Goode's play doesn't actually make any judgments or resolve any issues. It just pokes fun at a large number of issues, like religion (Comet stops being a Muslim because she's afraid to tell them that she delivers toys for the "good little infidel boys," and Dancer, the Jewish reindeer, wonders if she can get off when Hanukkah falls on the 24th), sexuality (Cupid's particular fetish is for the sadomasochism of Santa's whip or the way a buck's antlers gore him during oral), and morality (Donner whores out his son for a taste of success, and Vixen almost seems convinced that her own lifestyle choices justified Santa's rape). As such, the play is a series of over-the-top surprises that pervert our perceptions, and is a good match for the Dysfunctional Theatre Company.

This year, however, the third time isn't the charm. Most of the cast has been in the show before (playing other reindeer), and some of them seem tired of it. Each of the eight ultimately stands alone (although others occasionally drink in the background), and only a few of the reindeer have personalities that really command attention. The play becomes grounded only in the jokes, not the flimsy characters, which makes sense, since there's no direction, only performing. Set pieces give the actors a place to play, but nothing brings these pieces together, and so the show is ultimately a little disappointing, even with all the laughs.

The Red Room (84 East 4th Street)
Performances (through 12/21): Thurs. - Sat. @ 8:00 | 12/6 @ 4
Tickets: $18.00