December 15, 2013
The play's title may suggest a lighthearted Christmas play to some, but the show is anything but. The plot addresses the circumstances of an alleged rape. The accused rapist is none other than Santa Claus, and the victim is Vixen (Royana Black), one of his titular eight reindeer.
Although the production does not have an immediately strong start, t The characters grow more compelling as the play goes on and more and more is revealed about Santa's corrupt, power-hungry operation. While some reindeers defend Santa and others condem his behavior, they are all clearly conflicted between their loyalty to their beloved employer and the troubling reality of his behavior. The reindeers' varying opinions about Vixen intensify audience anticipation for Vixen's closing monologue so that they can meet (and judge) Vixen for themselves.
As the final character to appear onstage, Vixen's scene is heartbreaking. Black's performance capture the anger and guilt of a rape victim without glorifying Vixen as a character. The nuanced portrayal generates sympathy for Vixen, who is "slut-shamed" by the media and by other reindeer based on her sexual past. In a reinforcement of the stigma against rape victims, the attacks on her character by other reindeer cast a doubt on her claims, however small. Whatever individual audience members believe, Vixen represents a remarkably complex portrayal of a character who has suffered from sexism and mysogyny.
Audience members may be surprised that the most controversial character, Santa Claus himself, never makes an appearance. The play thus focuses on the impact of the alleged rape more so than its perpetrator. While audiences are never introduced to Santa, the descriptions of his rampant sexual abuse and power hungry attitude inspire broader questions about the status of the rich and powerful in society.
The relatively simple set contributes to the ambiance of the venue. Because the play is a series of monologues, the audience needs to closely follow the content of each reindeer's testimony to determine who to believe. The single chair, stack of Christmas gifts and fireplace decorated with a stocking for every reindeer allows the audience to focus on each of the characters.
While the plot may focus on familiar fictional characters, take off the antlers and "The Eight" could be easily be about any prominent public figure who faces accusations of rape. The production serves as a reminder of the role of the media in preserving the status of the wealthy and famous and demonizing their accusers. Whether or not every audience member fully believes Vixen's accusations, "The Eight" leads to a much-needed reevaluation of gender values in today's socety.
Reach staff reporter Sarah Allen here.
Alliance Repertory Company's production of "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" is playing through Deccember 21 at the Complex Theater (6476 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood.) Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at Alliance Repertory's website or by calling (323) 596-1648.