December 11, 2008
The Paper Wing Theatre Company prides itself on offering edgy, off-the-beaten-path productions that are geared for a more mature audience.
With its latest, Jeff Goode's "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues," it's almost like jumping off a precipice.
In a hilarious deconstruction of the beloved story of the kindly Santa Claus, his North Pole workshop filled with earnest elves making toys for all the children of the world and delivering them on Christmas Eve, the audience is offered quite another version of what might go on there.
Establishing the ambience of this high-flying satire on the providers of Christmas cheer, the set one sees is not all red and green with decorative snowflakes.
It is rather a bar, serving liquor exclusively for the reindeer team. A TV set behind the bar with a video shows Santa and aliens in an unexplained conflict.
It isn't romantic. There are no fairies either. But once the highly accomplished cast gets going, the perverse humor and the outrageous statements about jolly old Saint Nick's moral depravity become an exercise in enjoying the author's imaginative, tongue-in-cheek flights of subversive fancies about the cherished icon.
The eight monologues allow each reindeer an opportunity to deliver his or her take on what happened to Rudolph after his one chance of leading the team and why Vixen is pressing a charge of rape against jolly old sexual harasser Santa Claus.
The head reindeer, Dasher, who has been the staunch leader for many years in all kinds of weather conditions, relates his feelings about being superseded one year by Rudolph.
L.J. Brewer is an imposing cowboy type, looming larger than life and is strong and dominantly assured as he voices his feelings.
Cupid (Jay DeVine) creates a finely honed character who is proud of being the only "openly gay" figure on the team and in his traversal of the twists and turns of his activities, really holds attention.
Lewis Rhames as Prancer was handicapped by the way he was staged. Because his character wants to be in movies and TV and be more famous than Rudolph, he was shown in a video and it simply didn't carry. I am sure this will be remedied for upcoming performances.
The first act ends with an electrifying performance by Koly McBride as Blitzen.
Allison Smith as Comet gives a heartfelt, subtly comical and perfectly imitated takeoff on a certain recently prominent political figure, as she tells how Santa rescued her from the gutter.
She has some really wonderful lines as she vividly expresses her gratitude and unshakeable faith in him.
But then things get dark and serious as Allen Ray Aston, in the role of Donner, Rudolph's father, tells of his heartbreak over what happened to his son, both before and after his historic leadership trip, which was never duplicated and how Santa ruined his life.
Though this is a very strange story, Aston makes this one of the most effective episodes in the script.
And finally, it is the turn of Vixen, the eighth reindeer, the one who makes the others face up to the depravity around them.
Heather Hahn is a delight as she explains what happened to her and what Rudolph saw.
She is sweetly rational, yet strongly expressive of her principles and thoughts about the whole unseemly atmosphere, but she is triumphant as she ties up the loose ends of the plot and makes you want to applaud when she announces her resignation and her move to Florida.
This is not a show for children. Some language is quite frank and it is certainly not a thing of sweetness and light with its sexually skewed present-day humor.
So, if you are tired of the usual Christmas entertainments, have fun and go see the group of off-duty reindeer let down their hair.
Oh yes, they are fully dressed in warm clothes. After all, it's cold up there at the North Pole (for now, anyway).
Nathalie Plotkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. GO!