By Michael Toscano
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Had your fill of forced Christmas cheer? Want to wash the taste of candy cane right out of your mouth and replace it with something stronger? Well, then, Little Theatre of Alexandria has just the thing for you with its production of "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues," a deliberately discordant comedy by Jeff Goode.
This might be the season to be jolly, but the reindeer who pull Santa's sleigh are having none of it. And they're all too happy to spill their bile in this adult-oriented show, with off-color subject matter and rough language that is a marked departure from LTA's usual wholesome fare.
The theater company is running the show as a late-night offering, starting at 10:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. That, presumably, keeps the kiddies from being exposed to charges that Santa has his own dark reasons for finding out who's naughty and who's nice. And it allows plenty of time for pre-show revelry, based on the alcohol-infused fumes that seemed to envelop some in the cheery audience at a recent performance.
Imagine getting the inside scoop on North Pole dirt from the likes of Dasher (he's bitter), Cupid (he's gay and loves Santa's whip), Hollywood (he's really Prancer but thinks he's a showbiz legend), Blitzen (a hardcore feminist polemicist), Comet (Santa's not-too-bright defender), Dancer (a graceful reindeer ballerina), Donner (the depressed father of the freak reindeer Rudolph) and Vixen (who lodges charges of sexual assault against Mr. Claus). One by one, they tell their tales in a frequently funny and always pungent exposé of life among the elves.
There are no redeeming social values here, no lessons learned nor good cheer at the end. It's just 90 minutes of theater of the absurd that dances around the rather unfunny subject of sexual abuse. It is up to the actors to maintain a sense of fun and keep viable the idea that this is satire, as they slander the familiar image of the jolly Saint Nicholas.
Under the direction of William D. Parker, the cast generally succeeds in keeping things festive, and the atmosphere never becomes too dark to smother the laughs.
There is no stagecraft to support the cast. The lighting is flat and bland, as the actors stand in front of the closed curtains on LTA's proscenium stage. (Behind the curtains is the set for the troupe's more standard Christmas show, which is also running.) It's just each reindeer addressing the audience in a monologue, one after the other. It's a challenge to engage a boisterous, late-night audience this way, but the actors mostly succeed.
In the midst of the rough material, Kat Sanchez manages a sweetly sensitive performance as Dancer, the ballerina reindeer who doesn't want to believe Santa is a pervert but is concerned that one of the reindeers is a Muslim. In this absurdist context, it is actually rather, pardon the expression, endearing.
John T. Adams III also turns in a layered performance as Donner, full of regret and shame over being Rudolph's father and for not protecting his rednosed son from Santa's advances. Okay, it's odd, but strangely affecting in Adams's hands.
Deb Green gives us a saucy Vixen at the finale. She comes onstage with a burst of energy and manages to overcome the fact that the joke is getting pretty thin by this point and there's nothing more to be said, really. But she says it with a salacious leer and puts an exclamation point on the show.
This is not everybody's cup of eggnog, but for those with a twisted sense of humor, it just might sleigh you.
"The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" is running in tandem with LTA's production of "Scrooge! The Musical," the Leslie Bricusse adaptation of Charles Dickens's tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Cratchit family. "Scrooge! The Musical" closes Sunday, with 7:30 p.m. performances tonight through Saturday and a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee.
"The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" continues through Dec. 20 at Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe St., Alexandria.
Showtime Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays is 10:30 p.m. For tickets and information, call the box office at 703- 683-0496 or visit http://www.thelittletheatre.com.