Updated: Mar 20, 2019
Oh, boy! Has Santa been bad, or what? Depends on which reindeer you believe.
Jeff Goode has written eight very clever, adult monologues, and I suppose this is one reason the Onyx Theatre decided to schedule performances at 10:00pm. Regardless of the start time, the decision to present this in the Cabaret Room is the right one.
The intimate venue is perfect and scenic designer Joy Demain wisely kept it simple. The proscenium stage, flanked by holiday-painted flats and presents, is bare except for a single stool. Yet, Director Troy Heard puts the entire room to use with the actors breaking the fourth wall to directly address audience members.
It’s a fun play. There are serious moments but, then again, there are serious issues put forth. You see, Santa is being accused of all sorts of sordid behavior, and now The Eight, those elite members of reindeer society, are split into two camps: those who defend him and those who side with accuser Vixen.
Lee Monson is Dasher, the oldest of the bunch, whose issue with flying into tall buildings is what gave Rudolf his chance on that foggy night. Monson’s nerves were apparent from the start and he never quite recovered. His Dasher is all defensive bluster, yet even those who adopt this attitude display various levels, but Monson didn’t find them.
It turns out Cupid is gay. With the law of averages, it makes sense there would one in the family. Andrew Young plays it to the hilt with great effect. He’s all over the place in his fur coat - literally, a fur coat. Young tosses his head, bats his eyes, plays demure, and still manages to show not only his disgust with Santa but disappointment. There’s never a dull moment.
Did you know that Rudolf isn’t the only reindeer with a film? It’s true. Prancer is quite the “Hollywood” guy and Michael Close does the role justice. His attitude of incense and jealousy over the film deal he sees in Vixen’s future bubbles to the surface in waves. The posturing Close finds within conveys the star image without coming off as imitation. As a result, he wrings both laughs and pathos from us.
Olga Rios is Blitzen and, as the staunch defender of Vixen and protester complete with leaflets, does a nice job. She’s at once angry and defiant, moving from stage to house and back again. The sense of pride is mixed with suffering and belligerence in the proper doses to invoke laughter at the right times.
On Comet! Well, he’s definitely in Santa’s camp. Shane Cullum is so thoroughly in character from start to finish, you can see the wheels turning. He hesitates, he forges on. The gratefulness of being rescued from a life of crime rings true, the “bad boy” image of a misspent youth, and absolute disbelief in Vixen’s accusations are all on display at the proper tone to invoke humor.
When you’re on stage alone, there’s no one to rescue you. Anita Bean, as Dancer, stumbled with her lines at the beginning, recovered nicely, picked it up, and moved on. A victim of religious and sexist bigotry as a young doe, she does well relaying the sense of sadness and regret. With fluid grace, her body language always conveyed the origin of her name.
Robert Langford had his work cut out for him. The role of Donner is a tough one. The overall is intended to be humorous, and there’s very little to be found in this monologue. But some different choices in delivery could’ve made all the difference. Even as Langford portrayed shame and guilt there were missed opportunities to mine and convey laughs.
Evidently Vixen spent her life living up to the name. Kady Heard embodied the accuser being vilified and victimized to perfection. Her sense of indignation comes through not only in the vocal choices but in body language as well. When she takes the stand in a mockumentary-type trial, she shows no remorse for life choices, yet Heard allows us to see the tragic results.
With holiday fun, and a good swift kick in the keister, this production puts a mirror to the face of society pretty much as Goode intended. Decide for yourself which camp you’d be in.
What: The Eight: Reindeer Monologues
When: 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through December 19
Where: Onyx Theatre, 953-16B E Sahara Avenue
Tickets: $15 (702-732-7225; www.onyxtheatre.com)
Producer: Off-Strip Productions; Director: Troy Heard; Scenic Designer: Joy Deman; Lighting Designers: Corey Covell, Coral Benedetti; Stage Manager: Cory Covell