Erie Times-News
December 6, 2012

Dark side of Santa on display in 'The Eight' at PACA

By Erin McCarty, Erie Times-News
Contributing writer

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen ... at least you think you do. But if you see "A Very Goode Christmas," the festival of seasonal work by playwright Jeff Goode at PACA, "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" will provide a whole new perspective on these elite flying mammals.

Each of the eight actors portrays a different reindeer with distinctive quirks and some strong opinions on a scandal that has rocked the North Pole. The sets of antlers on their heads, several with jingle bells or Santa hats attached, help keep us rooted in the idea that we are hearing from members of a different species.

Aaron Pacy and Dom DelGreco ooze cockiness as team leader Dasher and theatrically frustrated Prancer. Scott Frisina's reformed rabble-rouser Comet is loyal to a fault, while Jerry Gill's flamboyant Cupid is traumatized by what he's seen.

Linda Kemp's tough-talking Blitzen and Christine Sanner's wistful Dancer broach feminist concerns over the work environment Santa provides, while Sean Morgan and Kelly Rodland give the most emotionally loaded performances as Donner and Vixen, the two closest to the incident in question.

The characterizations are great, and part of the fun is piecing together all of the bits of information to form an idea of what actually has occurred -- though the picture that materializes is quite disturbing. Language, violence and sexuality are all at a level intended for adults, and Santa is chief among those taken down a peg through this twisted tale, directed by Jeff Rodland.

In this and other pieces that follow, Goode shines a light on cherished traditions and uses them to examine grittier aspects of society. How far are we willing to go to preserve good appearances, refusing to see the ugliness that lies beneath the fancy trim? The undercurrents of anger and despair in many characters also serve as a reminder that while Christmas may be a time of general merriment, for some, the holidays amplify pain.

Yes, this festival definitely lives up to the "dark" in dark comedy, but the humor hits its mark as well, particularly in the snarky, post-apocalyptic "The Last Noel" and the ultra-trimmed-down "1-Minute Christmas Carol," which features Howard Savoy as the ornery Scrooge and Alex Bolla as all three Ghosts.

If you have yet to see the space occupied by the Performing Artists Collective Alliance, this show offers a good opportunity. Given the limited seating, it's best to arrive early. Before the show, you can peruse some local artwork and read up on the history of "The Eight" in Erie. While this is one Christmas show that's not fit for the whole family, this edgy collection does offer an intriguing alternative peek at some very familiar figures.