December 2009

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues

HotCity Theatre

Through December 19, 2009
Reviewed by Bob Wilcox
Feminism and sexual harassment in the workplace have been hot topics for several years, and they've often found their way onto the stage. Playwright Jeff Goode has taken these topics and cooled it. That is, he's taken them to the North Pole, where the esprit de corps of the eight reindeer has been fractured by accusations that Santa has sexually abused Rudolph and has raped Vixen.

Goode calls his play The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, and it's sort of a one-joke show as Goode revises our usual images of these figures. He keeps it going by the clever turns and imaginative reconstructions in each of the eight monologues that make up the play, though the strain does show at times.

Goode gets terrific help from the director, Sarah Armstrong, and the cast of the HotCity Theatre production. Ever-cool Robert A. Mitchell makes Dasher, lead reindeer in the eight-animal team, the complete alpha male. J.J. Sitzmann grabs the spotlight as a flamboyantly gay Cupid. Tyler Vickers is Prancer gone LA and now known as Hollywood. Kim Furlow's butch Blitzen is the North Pole's mechanic and resident feminist. Rusty Gunther has a great deer-in-the-headlights move as his Comet, an ex-delinquent rescued by Santa, illustrates what can happen if you don't stay sober. Kari Ely is a martini-sipping Dancer, obviously not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree – or Hanukah bush, in the case of the only Jewish reindeer. Alan Knoll's Donner is deep into his beer and his guilt for what he let Santa do to his son Rudolph. And sexy Vixen, the accuser of the jolly old elf, admits that she's hardly lived a chaste life, but Julie Venegoni makes it clear that Vixen is very much her own woman.

These are all rich and delightful performances – it could otherwise be a long evening of listening to one after another after another – and they get brilliantly witty help from the costumes that Felia Davenport provides. Cameron Fuller designed the North Pole set and Alan Chlebowski the lights.

This irreverent take on the season's pop culture continues at the Kranzberg Arts Center through December 19, 2009. Tickets for HotCity's The Eight: Reindeer Monologues are available at 314-289-4063 and at www.hotcitytheatre.org .