The case against Santa
By Charlene Baldridge
Far, far away from “The Night Before Christmas,” is Jeff Goode’s dark holiday comedy “The Eight: Reindeer Monologues,” which is running through Dec. 20 at Hillcrest’s Compass Theatre. Premiered in Chicago slightly more than a decade ago, the work comprises eight monologues, delivered by Dasher, Cupid, Hollywood, Blitzen, Comet, Dancer, Donner and Vixen. The put-upon monologuists tell a tawdry tale, messing with sacrosanct images of jolly old St. Nick, Mrs. Claus, their industrious elfin toymakers and the toy-laden sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer.
Or is it reindeers? And where did this deer called Hollywood come from? Is Santa really a pervert and a rapist as some deer allege? Is that why Blitzen, Cupid and Vixen have called a strike? And worse, is that why Vixen is threatening a sexual harassment suit? A certain reindeer named Victor died in the line of duty, but never are we told what happened to Prancer. Obviously “The Eight: Reindeer Monologues” is not about logic. All done up in a red bow and a blur of clever costumes, it is a mirror held up to tradition, the privileges of celebrity and the media, and the sexual freedom that comes with power, especially in the workplace. There is no Santa Claus, at least as we knew him.
Monologues are exceptionally challenging theatrical beasts. Each delivery must be a world of its own, deftly created by an actor with considerable skills and limited time. Goode’s eight clever, glib and sequential monologues are an especial challenge because they are a shockingly blasphemous sendup of a cherished childhood myth. The taste is as acrid as that of David Sedaris’ “Santaland Diaries,” but the matinee audience Dec. 6 seemed game.
Most deer suffer Rudolph envy. Once one gets over the shock, the material offers much. Though some actors display considerable skill, the requisite acumen and success does not accrue to all who wear the antlers, reins and harness. Director Jerry Pilato has the unenviable task of trying to make a team of eight who pull in opposite directions and tell differing tales.
In alphabetical order, the actors donating their services to this Compass Theatre fundraiser are Teresa Beckwith, Tim Benson, Ed Cao (a sequined Cupid Dec. 6), Lynae De Priest, Kristen Fogele, Desmond Hassing, Josh Hyatt, Tyler Herdklotz, Jennifer Provenza, Bernadette Ralphs, Stephen Rowe, and Peter Schwartz.
Worth a try if your holiday funny bone is tickled by wry, “The Eight: Reindeer Monologues” continues at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 20, $20 general admission, $17, seniors and students, at the Compass Theatre, 3704 Sixth Ave. in Hillcrest. For more information, visit www.compasstheatre.com or call (619) 688-9210.
Charlene Baldridge is a member of the San Diego Critics Circle with more than 30 years experience writing about the arts.