Daily Breeze
November 12, 2008

'Reindeer' satire is more naughty than nice

By Jim Farber Theater Critic

It's hard to know what to make of the Hermosa Beach Playhouse production of Jeff Goode's cult Christmas diatribe, "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues."

All through the Friday opening I kept thinking, this is one weird play, especially for the South Bay. Maybe James Blackman, president of Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities, thought it would be fun to throw his audience a poison apple for the holidays?

The stage looks like any other North Pole pageant, with drifts of fake snow, stacks of gaily wrapped packages, blinking Christmas trees, Santa's Toy Shoppe and a sign designating the polar location.

Looks, however, can be deceiving. And in this case, they definitely are.

"The Reindeer Monologues" is more about sexual harassment in the workplace and media sensationalism than it is about celebrating the holidays with dear old Saint Nick and his reindeer.

In fact, it soon becomes clear that Santa (who does not appear) is being investigated for sexual conduct unbecoming a saint - specifically, attempting to rape Vixen, one of his sleigh-bearing employees.

One by one they come before a phantom committee to testify: Dasher, the old pro (Marcus Cohlan); Cupid (Rhett Nadolny), the gay reindeer; Hollywood (Ted Escobar), constantly on the phone with his agent; Blitzen (Sara Borgeson), a rabid feminist; Comet (Dane Biren) a rehabilitated gang-banger; Dancer (Carolyn Cannon), poster child for ditzy blondes; Donner (Don Fowler), Rudolph's long-suffering father; and Vixen (Meredith Rensa), a black leather sex kitten who hates the cold.

Their testimony is laced with a plethora of expletives that cannot be reproduced here, and added references to the recent election.

It does not take long to realize that working conditions at the North Pole are a lot more naughty than nice. Santa is a letch. Mrs. Claus is a slut and a lush. Rudolph, never that sound mentally, is lost in a catatonic stupor. And the elves? Well what can you say about them?

The push-pull of Goode's satire is, of course, based on the idea that these are, and at the same time are obviously not, reindeer. They are fellow workers with their own distinct personalities and issues - whether it's a taste for kinky sex in harness ("Oh, Santa, strike me again with your whip"), ego conflicts over press coverage, etc.

Each of the monologues, as directed by Stephanie Coltrin, is delivered with a degree of humor, flare and in the case of Rudolph's father, a touch of compassion. I did particularly like Biren's in-your-face defense of his savior, Santa.

Will you like it? How should I know? Just don't bring the kids.

Jim Farber (310) 540-5511, Ext. 416 jim.farber@dailybreeze.com