by Artis Mooney
Warning: Adult content.
Delightful, hilarious, scandalous, intimate. Disturbing?
For an actor, monologues can be a delight and a challenge.
The beauty of the Little Theater of Alexandria is that you don’t have to play over the top because it’s such a small theater. Everything reads, straight to the back. This can also present an awkward proposition if you’re alone on the stage – it takes a fine actor to fill that space comfortably. It’s kind of like inviting three hundred strangers into your boudoir. This show marks William D. Parker’s debut as a director at LTA, and the cast responds with vivacity.
The premise behind “The Eight: Reindeer Monologues,” a dark Christmas comedy, from author Jeff Goode’s notes on the show: “Scandal erupts at the North Pole when one of Santa’s eight tiny reindeer [Vixen] accuses him of sexual harassment. As mass media descends upon the event, the other members of the sleigh team demand to share their perspectives, and a horrific tale of corruption and perversion emerges, which seems to implicate everyone from the littlest elf to the tainted Saint himself.”
“The Eight” definitely offers, alongside the laughs, a thought-provoking look into the darker side of humanity. With parody and metaphor, the script exposes vignettes of modern culture through the various stereotype caricatures embodied in the reindeer. Goode provides an interesting treatment of the potential cynicism surrounding the holiday. You can find yourself on many tangents about the whole commercial and capitalist orchestration that is being performed, from the myth parents pass down to their children as a tool for behavior modification to the faceless individuals working in deplorable factory conditions creating all the things the boys and girls (young and old) can dream of. Then, back to this story, there is the scandal: the implication that Santa is a rapist and pedophile, not of children, we must remind ourselves, but of his reindeer and elves.
Steve Lada, as Dasher, has the great challenge of being the first player out on opening night. His performance feels a little flat and forced, a little stiff. His most powerful moment is his closing gesture, a sharp military salute with middle finger extended, flipping the bird. Laura Scott, as Blitzen, distractingly gestures like a presidential candidate. Blitzen-as-lawyer comes off a bit dry and one-dimensional. This may be owed in part to weakness in this part of the script. Some of the humor in this monologue is a bit obvious. James Finley as Hollywood aptly captures the persona of a Tinsel Town celebrity. Strong from entrance to exit, Finley plays subtly like you can on film. Every nuance carries through the house. In some ways, his arrogance is almost textbook. He downplays the scandal. “Most of us have a few Vixen stories too…”
As each reindeer airs the dirty laundry, four actors stand out. Felipe Cabezas, Jeffrey Clarke, Kat Sanchez and Deb Green give the most memorable performances.
Felipe Cabezas as Comet performs the strongest monologue in the show by far. His New England accent is a bit tricky at the outset. Maybe it’s been put on just a little too thick, so that only an ear extremely accustomed to that region’s tongue would hear what he’s saying without effort. His character, a relaxed, beer-drinking college-boy-type reindeer, is so likeable that you hang on his every word.
He paints Santa as somewhat of a saint who has helped a lot of wayward reindeer and elves turn their lives around. He refers to a couple of elves who were “tow-boys in an Irish brothel when Santa found them…. Rudolph was just a poopy little retarded reindeer, and Santa gave him a chance to be something….”
Comet quite roundly defends Santa. “Vixen, Blitzen and Cupid are the pervs – the lesbians and the fag…. They think they’re gonna do the whole world a favor and get rid of Saint Nick…. Saint Nick wants to make the whole world happy.”
Jeffrey Clarke as Cupid is ebullient from the get-go. His vocal delivery is superb, although his gestures not quite believable, just a tad awkward. His imitation of Santa as he tells his tale is absolutely fabulous and convincing.
Santa hates him, and the feeling is almost mutual. “The last thing I need is the Jolly Old Elf coming down my chimney for Christmas.” He talks about how Santa keeps him at a safe distance. “Still far enough away that I don’t give him the cooties, but close enough for the whip.”
Cupid openly declares that he is gay, and his reasoning: oral sex. “Until you have had a salt-lick-job from a full-grown reindeer, you haven’t lived.” As for his opinion on the Vixen scandal: “Santa was a sex crime waiting to happen.”
Kat Sanchez plays Dancer. At first impression, it seems she’s chosen the stereotype of dancer as airhead. She speaks of many of her fellow reindeer as heathens, with a twist. In the zoo, “Some of them would stand there and play with themselves in broad daylight…and they didn’t even get tips!”
Sanchez comfortably uses a conversational tone of voice, and she is fortunate enough to work with one of the strongest parts of the script. She relays some quite funny stories about life with the Clauses. Mrs. C and Santa fight all the time, and Mrs. C gets quite violent – one time she tossed some elves clear across the room at a party.
Sanchez is really able to show a lot of depth of character in those few minutes. She starts out as this really cute bubbly young thing, and by the end, she gets quite serious and exposes the vulnerability of someone who has a few dark stories hiding. As her mood changes, the script goes a little too far around the bend, and the play gets a little too dark, ceasing to become comedy and starting to border on disturbing.
There are implications of other victims throughout the play, including Rudolph. Speaking of Rudolph, Donner – Rudolph’s dad – played by John T. Adams III, says he had a “mind of a child his whole life…. Every parent has dreams for their child…. Our whole culture is based on natural athleticism…. The British have the Beatles, the reindeer have The Eight.” Santa was begging for Rudolph to join his team. Implying Santa’s reputation as a pervert is known throughout the reindeer community, “I said ‘No’ to Santa Claus.” But eventually he acquiesced. “Being the red-nosed reindeer would be something to be proud of….” Meanwhile, he says sorrowfully, he ignored the tears and the screams from the next room. “I don’t know why,” he laments. Unfortunately, this mental picture leaves one of the most lasting impressions of the whole show. At this point, it wasn’t even dark comedy to me. It was just dark and disturbing.
Deb Green as Vixen gives an outstanding final performance. “You don’t know what it’s like to the be most famous victim.” People see you as “just another helpess female…. Was I raped, or was I looking for attention?” She definitely comes across as a bit of a tart, and rightfully so, she seems to say. “If I were a fruitcake, would you eat me for Christmas?” Flirtatious, feisty, and one who doesn’t mince words, she doesn’t take the obvious route with this character, certainly not coming across as a helpless victim or a reindeer who will take much flack from anyone. She says after she appeared in Playboy, Santa offered her cunnilingus.
Something in her final tirade is so reminscent of reindeer with her stomping and prancing about on the stage, although not overtly so. Vixen ends the play on a lighter note. She’s done with Santa. “So, I’m moving to Florida…”
“The Eight” is not for the prude or easily offended. Appropriately, this adult play begins after the family performance “Scrooge: The Musical,” which is almost completely sold out for the run.
Performance time for “The Eight” is at 10:30 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights through Dec. 20, and tickets are $15. For more information about either show, or for tickets, visit www.thelittletheater.com or call the box office at (703) 683-0496.