December 19, 2008
Bag & Baggage Productions' holiday show at Hillsboro's Venetian Theatre, Jeff Goode's darkly funny take on life at the North Pole casts the celebrity spotlight on Santa, who's been a naughty boy. The press is all aflutter because there's rumor that the fat man in red has been charged with interspecies sexual misconduct with one of his reindeer, and as the media circus continues, St. Nick's eight reindeer step up one at a time to tell the story as they see it, almost as if they were witnesses in a courtroom.
Is Santa a sexual predator or a rehab counselor? Does Mrs. Claus have a drinking problem? What's the true story behind Rudolph's ascent to popularity? Depends on which reindeer you believe. Goode has created a witty antidote to sentimental holiday stories, as he sends up commercialism, the hunger for fame, the making public of private scandals a la Jerry Springer and more.
As each monologue is presented, we recognize different stereotypes in society: We meet Dasher, the militant alpha male who turns a blind eye to the flaws of his boss (and to the fact that he flew into a large building that wasn't there last year), and then, there's Cupid, the gay reindeer with the juiciest gossip who confesses he likes the crack of Santa's whip.
Although director Scott Palmer could have tightened up the stage business a bit, the entire cast is strong, particularly the female performers. As the strident feminist Blitzen, Maggie Chapin cuts loose vehemently in a very funny scene where she accused Santa of skipping Third World countries on Christmas eve, and laments gender inequality ("Why can't I walk through a herd of bucks in mating season without feeling like a piece of venison?").
Comet, sketched with the zeal of a convert by Jen Waters, is a juvenile junkie gone straight, crediting Santa with her transformation. "The only reason I'm not some road kill is because of St. Nick," she gushes. Dancer, a Jewish princess in ballet garb played by Sharon Biermann, is into denial about the rumor, unable to decide on the truth, but claiming there is one muslim in the sleigh group. Along with the laughs, a strain of sadness pervades the material. Due to language and subject matter, this is an adults-only performance in the newly renovated Venetian Theatre, an elegant venue in downtown Hillsboro.
"The Eight: Reindeer Monologues"
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. today and 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Venetian Theatre, 253 E. Main St., Hillsboro
Tickets: $18, $15 seniors; 503-693-3953 or ticketturtle.com
Web site: www.bagnbloggage.com, www.venetiantheatre.com