If the idea of Santa Claus being a sexual deviant deeply offends you, don’t see The 8 Reindeer Monologues. If, however, you find S&M, bestiality, and dick jokes hilarious, move forward.
In true Theatre on the Square fashion, everyone multitasks. The opening-weekend night I attended, Nate Walden, script in hand, stepped in for an actor who was absent due to a death in the family. One of the actors runs the box office and concessions. The tech guy was MIA. The director, Lori Raffel, is also the sound designer (with Eric Brockett, of the above-mentioned box office, who is also the assistant director), set designer, and program designer—as well as the artistic and development director of TOTS.
Sometimes delegation is a good thing.
The show is set in the North Pole police station. One of the reindeer has made a scandalous accusation against Santa. As Cupid states, Santa is “a walking, talking, holly-jolly sex crime waiting to happen.” Each reindeer, representing broad stereotypes, is brought into the station’s office to be a sort of character witness for Santa.
The show starts off promising. First up is Will Carlson as Dasher, the lead reindeer—a grizzled, war-general type. We laugh. Walden takes the stage next as the flamboyantly gay Cupid, and we laugh hysterically. Walden barely has to refer to his script, and he plays up the character unabashedly. He’s uninhibited and physical. Brockett as Prancer, aka “Hollywood,” has a chip on his shoulder because Rudolph’s claymation cartoon casts a damaging shadow on his movie Prancer. His part is amusing, but the segment is not particularly memorable.
Before the show slows down, Paige Scott takes the stage as Blitzen, the angry lesbian. Scott and Walden split the buck’s share of good lines, and Scott doles them out with mad glee and a slightly crazed look in her eyes. Is our childhood disenchantment with Santa Claus really just the first step toward repression of visits from the perverted old elf?
Then the show gets serious. It gets dark. It’s not funny anymore. It’s making a social statement. Stop. This is boring.
Robert Webster as Comet (a reformed member of Hell’s Herd), Jim Lucas as Donner (Rudolph’s weary father, who sold his son into sexual slavery), and Amanda Bell as Vixen (the foxy victim) are saddled with material that wants to rise above the base humor and be meaningful. Director Raffel has the actors play their characters straight, and Webster, Lucas, and Bell create believable, emotionally charged characters. (Tanya Haas’s Dancer, a dumb-blonde ballet deer, doesn’t have much depth to plunge.) However, it slams the brakes on the pace of the show, leaving you empty and a little confused. Before that happens, though, Bell gives us one last nugget of comedy gold by describing a drunken Mrs. Claus attending a party in body paint, pasties, and an elf strapped to her crotch.