Playing with the sensationalism and
personal exploitation that has defined so much of the media in the era
of hundreds of cable TV channels, The Eight parodies popular
monologue theater as the audience sees a sordid North Pole scandal
unfolding deer by deer. The proceedings take on a distinctly
Faulknerian tone as the eight tiny reindeer tell the story in an
amusingly fragmented manner, every one of them viewing the traumatic
events through their own prism. Not even the elves (who unfortunately
do not appear) escape the round of extreme truth-telling.
Under the direction of Dan Tursi, the
sparkling cast takes the stage one at a time, exposing Santa’s secrets
in poses and epigrams that resemble the kind of perverse holiday cards
you do not find on the Hallmark rack. J. Brazil starts the evening off
as a raffish reindeer Dasher. Referring to Santa as Fat Boy, his is a
Quentin Tarantino-ish look at the shocking events at the workshop.
Openly gay reindeer Cupid (played with a
wink by Alan Stillman) paints Santa as a pederast, although he coyly
admits that he has had no firsthand experience to confirm this. Adding
his own particular insight into the Christmas Eve flight around the
world, he coos that Santa’s whip “adds a little spice to the season.”
Hollywood, the newly acquired nickname of erstwhile film star Prancer
(Gennaro Parlato), ignites the bonfire of bigotry when he bitterly
comments, “No deer has ever been nominated for an Academy Award.”
Forgiving Comet (Christopher James) has
the serenity of the reformed addict as he recounts his own many sins.
As played by David Minikhiem, Blitzen is the most unsettling of the
eight. A distinctly rough trade doe, she bitterly assails the jolly old
elf, describing him as a “grotesque libidinous troll who knows when you
are sleeping and knows when you’re awake,” as she details the cover-up
that has dominated the North Pole.
The sexy Dancer, winningly played by
Jodi Bova, confides her disdain for the inhabitants of zoos, especially
for the habits of monkeys, although she insists she is not an
“anti-simian.” As Donner, here presented as the distraught dad of the
most famous reindeer of all, Jordan Glaski puzzles over what unfolds
for him as the tragedy of Rudolph. Describing the red-nosed one as a
fragile young deer with a hideous facial deformity, Glaski plays his
scene in classic Lifetime movie style.
As Vixen, the central figure in the tale
as it unfolds, statuesque Aubry Panek is all dignity as a deer who will
not be destroyed by the events that seem to obsess her teammates.
Although Seven Santas, also
directed by Tursi, has its share of wild laughs, it’s clearly the
weaker of the two plays, as playwright Goode snowplows over much of the
same comic territory. This time, a dissolute Santa has been sent to
rehab after a minor violation. In group, the many incarnations of Old
St. Nick peel away the many layers of Santa to reveal the man, the
saint, the legend and the pervert. Happily, the same cast does the
Alan Stillman, infuses his Santa, aka
NiQ, with a comic’s perfect timing as he explains why Santa’s sleigh is
no longer drawn by polar bears and Christopher James brings a wide-eyed
pervy enthusiasm to Kris Kringle. J. Brazil’s pacing, gum-chewing Klaus
gives an appropriately cynical view of the economics of Christmas,
while Jordan Glaski is seemingly being eaten by his costume as Saint
Nicholas. Jodi Bova is a curvaceous Jolly Old Elf (or J.O.E.), and
Gennaro Parlato is perfect as the iconic Big S. The bonus for Seven Santas is little dynamo Becky Bottrill as a messed-up and seriously scary Mrs. Claus.
For a mature audience exhausted from
decking the halls and perhaps ready to don the gay apparel, Rarely
Done’s combination platter of The Eight: Reindeer Monologues and Seven Santas may be just the thing to spike their eggnog.
Both productions run through Dec. 20. See Times Table for information.