Stage Scene LA
December 13, 2010

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues

Jeff Goode's The Eight: Reindeer Monologues has been entertaining Orange County audiences at the Chance Theater for the past seven Decembers. In my review of last year's production, I called it "the funniest (and filthiest) Christmas show in town." As for its plot, "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?"

This year's Chance production of The Eight: Reindeer Monologues allows theatergoers the opportunity to savor the work of as many as three different actors in each of the eight reindeer roles.  For this reason I gladly returned for the 2010 edition, last night's performance featuring seven out of eight different cast members from those reviewed here last year.

In a number of cases, this year's and last year's actors' takes on the roles are as different as night and day.  Where Dimas Diaz had played openly gay reindeer Cupid with street girl sass, Bob Simpson's Cupid is a flamboyantly over-the-top Latino drama queen.  Instead of Alex Bueno's gender-bending cholo boy Comet, Carter Mason plays the former bad boy-turned-good (thanks to Santa) as a karate-robed student of the martial arts. Sarah Moreau's sweet-and-ditzy Dancer becomes a "like buttah" Jewish matron when Jennifer Ruckman sinks her teeth into the role. If last year's Vixen (Emily Clark) was kissing cousins to Legally Blonde's Elle Woods, then this year's Zoe Simpson is her distant San Fernando Valley Girl relative (with not quite so many IQ points).  (Note: Bueno, Moreau, and Clark are once again performing on certain nights this year.)  Ben Green, Kyle Cooper, and Jeff Hellebrand too put their own personal stamps on Dasher, Hollywood, and Donner. Returning from last year's cast is Jocelyn Brown, whose angry feminist Blitzen is straight out of Northern Ireland, a concept entirely Brown's own (as are all the other actors'), Goode's script featuring not a single character description or stage direction.

Oanh Nguyen once again 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. This is unrestrained, imaginative, total-body acting, with (Bob) Simpson scoring highest for what can only be described as a seven-minute tour de force, with Ruckman's "Oy vey!" Dancer coming in a close second. It's never less than a pleasure to see StageSceneLA Discovery Of The Year Green on stage, Cooper's teen idol-gone-bad version of Hollywood could give Zac a run for his money, and (Zoe) Simpson's first of two performances is a total delight.  Mason and Hellebrand score points for originality as well, and Brown continues to dazzle as Blitzen.

Scenic/lighting designer Masako Tobaru has skillfully transformed the Secret Garden set into one that fits The Eight quite nicely indeed. Courtny Greenough is stage manager.

Click here to see who's performing during the remainder of The Eight's 2010 run. Then reserve seats this very minute or you may find yourself having to wait till December of 2011 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. 
Click here for current performance schedule, closing date, and reservation line.

--Steven Stanley
December 13, 2010