December 16, 2008
You can say there's no such thing as Santa, but as for me and the audience of "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" at Paper Kite Press in Kingston on Dec. 12 , we believe we've seen the real Kris Kringle and his eight reindeer ... in a darkly comedic and sinister work environment.
So this is Christmas ... and what has he done? Mr. Claus has been a sadistic pervert who molests poor little reindeer on the job while Mrs. Claus has been drinking herself into a daily eggnog stupor and pining over the male reindeer, making an embarrassment out of herself during holiday celebrations. Who knew the North Pole had so many problems with sexual harassment in the workplace?
As the accusations begin to unravel, the eight reindeer, a group of seriously flawed characters, stand before the audience, much like at a news conference, each professing their own points of view in this extended one-act directed by Ilvin Nieves and Kimmie Wrazien of the Bracken Theatre Company.
Upon the opening of the play, Alicia Nordstrom sets the tone and plot. Nordstrom plays the lead reindeer (Dasher) in the "Elite Eight" and does a convincing job of ranting like a senior-level worker about the ridiculousness of the accusations in her workplace and gushing about her amazing on-the-job feats.
In the second monologue, Ilvin Nieves "makes the yuletide gay" with Cupid, the only openly homosexual reindeer in the elite eight. Nieves convincingly flames around the stage, dirtily discussing Santa's secretly placed candy cane tattoo and North Poles. Under these strange circumstances, Neives convinces us that Cupid is happy that he is the only reindeer that hasn't been molested by Santa, and his overly boisterous tone hints that his open homosexuality is what keeps him safe.
As the monologues evolve, the play becomes more sobering as confessions and loyalties become clear. The character of Blitzen is an extremist who is protesting Christmas this year and is bent on a walkout. Unfortunately, Donna Vojtek's Blitzen was timid and line-reading compared to the angry feminist the audience might have expected from such powerful lines as, "When a doe says 'no,' she means 'no'."
Also, personally embarrassing situations become clear as the audience is lead to wonder, what is the truth about how Rudolph got to lead Santa's team that year? Apparently, once a part of the team, Rudolph did join in the reindeer games and was permanently traumatized as a result. The tension in the room rises as Billy Joe Herbert, who plays Donner, Rudolph's guilt-ridden alcoholic father, distressingly admits the sick details. While we do feel pity for his character, Herbert himself needs to work a bit more on his blue-collar noon drunk.
After the complex and unrepentant Wrazien (Vixen) speaks a captivating fall-down wine-drunk, emotionally detached and unsettled final monologue, the audience members are left to squirm uncomfortably in their seats. Especially when they hear her profess a very real and distressing question: "Why is it a woman is only a slut if she meets with some degree of success?"
Overall, all the actors, including David Giordano as Hollywood (formerly Prancer), Will Moore (Comet) and Christine Skiro (Dancer), bring depth and emotion to their roles so well that you may forget that they're wearing bright red antlers. This play was definitely not for children, and now that I've warned all you friends and neighbors to watch out for a man who drives a sleigh and plays with reindeer, let's just hope this holiday's a good one without any fear.