Stage Scene LA
December 9, 2009
One by one, Santa's eight reindeer weigh in on the sex scandal that's been rocking the North Pole. Is it true that Jolly Old St. Nick (aka "that fat fuck") sexually molested Reindeer Number 8 (aka Vixen), or is the sexiest of The Eight merely looking for her fifteen minutes of fame? In the hands of the accomplished cast (made up of Chance Theater members and frequent guests), and under the masterful direction of Oanh Nguyen, the answers add up to laughs at a rate of about one every ten seconds, and a good number of "Did he/she really say that?" gasps to boot.
First up is Dasher (Casey Long in the performance reviewed. The roles are double or triple cast.) In his lumberman's plaid shirt and jeans, this is one reindeer who'd be just as comfortable driving a big rig as leading a sleigh. Dasher is none too happy about that "foggy Christmas Eve" when Santa asked Rudolph (with his nose so bright) to drive his sleigh, and he tells us so in no uncertain terms and with such frequent use of the F-word (as verb, adjective, and noun) that network censors would be bleeping from here to eternity, that is if any broadcast network would ever dare air The Eight.
About as different from Dasher as day is to night is Reindeer Number 2, Cupid (Dimas Diaz), The Eight's only openly gay reindeer (though he assures us that there are closet cases among Santa's team. Otherwise, he'd have to be a monk.) Cupid, whom Diaz plays as if a sassy black chick had commandeered his Latino body, appears to have mixed feelings about being the only reindeer Santa has not molested. (Why is it, he wonders, that all pedophiles are homophobic?) "Take it from me," Cupid tells us, "Santa was a holly, jolly sex crime waiting to happen."
Reindeer Number 3 (Chance Dean) was once known as Prancer, however since he's the only one of The Eight to have starred in a movie (live action, not claymation, he reminds us), he's changed his name to Hollywood. Amidst anecdotes about filming the real-life family flick Prancer (opposite Sam Elliott, Cloris Leachman and Abe Vigoda), and in between sips of vodka or snorts of coke, Hollywood reveals the bone he has to pick with Vixen. That bitch has stolen his thunder with her claims of sexual harassment and wrecked his chances for a second Prancer sequel.
Blitzen (Jocelyn A. Brown) is an Irish feminist with "Feckin Eejit" (that's "Fucking Idiot" to you Americans) on her tight black t-shirt, metal piercings all over her face, and tattoos on her arms and chest. Blitzen has a warning for any child awaiting Santa's visit: "A jolly fat pervert is coming to town, who knows when you're sleeping, when you're awake, and how to get into your house." She's also got a complaint she addresses to any male chauvinist deer out there: "Why can't I walk through a herd of bucks in mating season without feeling like a piece of meat?" As for any bucks thinking of copycatting St. Nick, she offers this cautionary advice: "When a doe says no, it means no!"
Next up is Comet (Alex Bueno in cholo-boy mode), a reindeer del barrio rescued by Santa from a life of drugs. ("The only reason I'm not some road kill is because of St. Nicholas.") According to Comet, he Eight should show their gratitud to Santa instead of accusing him of misconduct. After all, "back in the Ô50s, if someone said she had been raped by St. Nick, no one would have believed her. She would have been brought up on charges." As for Rudolph, Cupid gives us the 411: He was just "a poor, deformed, retarded reindeer buck, and St. Nick turned him into somebody." Por favor, why can't everyone just leave Comet's benefactor alone?
Dancer (Sarah Moreau) is a prim-and-proper and cute-as-a-button former ballerina whose "You betcha" accent would make Sarah Palin feel right at home. Between serving audience members hot cocoa laced with peppermint schnapps, spreading frosting on sugar cookies, and handing them out to front-row guests, Dancer offers her take on the matter. Why can't her fellow reindeer just drop it? All right, Dancer did hear screams coming from Santa's workshop that day, but so what? "I'm not walking out," she declares in no uncertain terms. "I need this job!"
Rudolph's dad is next, better known as Donner (Lewis R. Crouse II), the eldest member of the team. Donner knows how lucky he is to be one of The Eight. Until Vixen's mate Victor died, Donner had no hope of ever pulling Santa's sleigh. ("I got a bad back, I'm not a good flyer, and I smoke.") Thus, he's firmly on the side of the fat man in red, the man who let Donner's "facially deformed, childlike son who would have been better off dead" lead the sleigh that foggy Christmas Eve. Even though poor Rudolph is now languishing in a padded cell, at least (as the song says) he'll go down in history. Right?
Finally, the doe we've all been waiting for, Vixen herself (Emily Clark). Looking and sounding like Elle Woods (of Legally Blonde fame) with an added dash of sexiness and sass, Vixen wonders why the media won't just leave her alone. Admittedly she is a slut (and proud of it), but, Vixen asks us, "Do you know what it's like to be the most famous victim of all?" Perhaps it would be best for this doe to turn in her membership card in The Eight and head for warmer climes.
And there you have, it. A taste of the The Eight, but one which can only hint at the show's raunchy hilarity. From Dasher's first "fuck," delivered with just enough of a wink to let us know it's all right to laugh, to Vixen's final farewell, bag all packed and ready to go, this is naughtiest fun you'll have all holiday season. (Uptight reactionary right-wing moralizers are hereby advised to stay home and watch Prancer or Prancer Returns on DVD.)
Ovation-nominated Nguyen deserves highest marks for his inventive direction, from the hoof stomps which accompany each mention of "The Eight" to the "international" flavor he's added to Goode's ethnicity-unspecific script.
The performances are out-and-out brilliant. This is unrestrained, imaginative, total-body acting, from Long's macho swagger, to Diaz's street-girl sass, to Dean's sexy braggadocio, to Brown's tough bitch bravado, to Bueno's street-smart cockiness, to Moreau's ditzy sweetness, to Crouse's lumberjack growl, to Clark's "like, oh my God, you guys, I'm so sure" sex appeal.
Lighting designer Masako Tobaru has added some giant red ribbons and reindeer-appropriate projections to the set of the concurrently running Little Women The Broadway Musical, to fit Goode's very un-Louisa Mae Alcott-like scenario. Each cast member appears to have chosen his/her own look, as production photos of reindeer not reviewed her are garbed quite differently. Kudos to them all for their spot-on fashion choices.
After six Decembers in a row, the folks at the Chance know how to do The Eight right. In fact, the show has become such a sell-out hit that additional performances have been added to this run. Take my advice, though. Reserve seats this very minute or you may find yourself having to wait till December of 2010 to find out what really happened behind closed doors on the night everyone's been talking about.
Chance Theater, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills. Through December 21. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at 8:00. Fridays and Saturdays at 11:00. Reservations: 714 777-3033 www.chancetheater.com--Steven Stanley