Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Tuesday, December 14, 1999

Hilarious seasonal show adds satire to its silliness

Tuesday, December 14, 1999


Playwright Jeff Goode must be one of those gifted people who can do two things at once: tie their shoes and chew gum, say, or rub their bellies and pat their heads. Two things that he can certainly do at once are silly comedy and serious satire.

Goode is the author of last summer's fringe sensation "Poona the F---dog," the run of which Open Circle Theater kept extending and extending and extending. In "Poona," Goode juggles silly animal stories with sharp insights into human foibles.

Open Circle, performing at Re-bar, is back with more animals. This time they are reindeer: Santa's famed team. They spend half their time dispensing ludicrous gossip about life at the North Pole happiness factory. Who would have guessed, for example, that Mrs. Claus would come to the annual company party wearing gold body paint and an Elf? The distraught Elf served as a sort of fig leaf.


The Eight: Reindeer Monologues. By Jeff Goode. An Open Circle Theater production at Re-bar, 1114 Howell St. (21 and over). Through Dec. 19. Tickets $12; 206-323-0388.

The other half of each reindeer's 10-minute monologue is devoted to opinion. They speak intensely about "the scandal." Vixen has accused Santa of raping her. Rudolph's father, Donner, acknowledges that Santa had his lecherous way with his son for a while. Blitzen is all righteous indignation against Santa. Macho Dasher can't see what it matters -- he's a "just do it" guy.

The other reindeers', and reindoes', testimony falls between the Dasher and Blitzen extremes.

"The Eight" is part absurd farce and part shrewd dissection of shocking revelations about saintly institutional figures. In 90 minutes, Goode pretty much wraps up everything you read during months and months of leaks, allegations and sworn testimony involving the supposed sexual misconduct of a celebrity evangelist, maybe, or a U.S. president.

Open Circle director Scott Bradley has trouble establishing momentum and continuity in the necessarily episodic bits of testimony. And some of the actors don't make inspired use of their solo moments on stage. But Lisa Sanphillippo distills the anger, scorn and virtue we've heard ruing the past 30 years of feminist advocacy. Hers is a thundering denunciation.

As Comet, P. Adam Walsh is a felonious marginal who, through Santa's rehabilitation program, has been redeemed -- or at least brainwashed. He quivers and dithers with frantic denial. He won't believe what he doesn't want to believe.

Most troubling is Skot Kurruk as Donner, a downsized loser who worships celebrity. When Santa wants Donner's misfit son for . . . for . . . whatever, Donner says no. But when Santa offers him, Donner, a place on that all-star sleigh team. Well. Every reindeer has his price. And a practiced predator such as Santa is an expert at offering whatever that price is. Kurruk droops. His voice is clotted with shame. Even his antlers sag.

As "the world's most famous victim," Vixen, Kim Nyhous ably crystallizes the familiar conundrum: Can a provocative slut be raped? Or is she "just asking for it?" Is she merely after publicity? Hmmmmm.

Before the reindeer inquest begins, Open Circle stages Kringles' Kabaret. There are opportunities for audience members to have their Polaroid picture taken with Santa. And the talent array includes two women who can imitate ukuleles by doing odd things with their noses. And Susan McIntyre performs a sort of country blues torch-song rendition of "Silent Night." It is hilarious.

P-I theater critic Joe Adcock can be reached at 206-448-8369 or