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REVIEW: HotCity Theatre Cooks Up Unusual Holiday Treat with THE EIGHT: REINDEER MONOLOGUES

HotCity Theatre offers up a decidedly different take on the usual yuletide fare with their delightfully twisted production of Jeff Goode's icon-shattering play, The Eight: Reindeer Monologues. While taking its stylistic inspiration from The Vagina Monologues, Goode's wacky script focuses our attention on accusations of sexual impropriety that have been leveled against Santa Claus by one of his reindeer. Obviously, this is not your typical holiday show, but that works in its favor, delivering scores of irreverent laughs while skewering and satirizing the image of "good St. Nick".

The set up centers around Vixen's assertions that Santa violated her one night in the toyshop. Apparently, Rudolph, who had been a victim of Santa's peculiar peccadillos himself, witnessed the act in progress and slipped into a catatonic state. The rest of the reindeer are in disagreement over the voracity of Vixen's claims, and each gets a turn to express their point of view, or lack thereof, on the matter.

Robert A. Mitchell kicks things off with his bitter portrayal of Dasher. He's been around the longest, and he reveals the treacherous nature of his annual duties, but refuses to take a stand where Vixen is concerned. He's followed by J.J. Sitzmann's over the top take on the openly gay Cupid. Cupid has seen his share of naughty behavior from both Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and he's not shy about the details, letting loose with enough damaging information to take down the jolly old elf.

Tyler Vickers enters next as Hollywood, renamed after his starring role opposite Cloris Leachman and Sam Elliott in the 1989 film Prancer. Vickers brings considerable energy to his role as the self-obsessed reindeer, more concerned with his career than any conduct unbecoming by his boss. The militant feminism of Kim Furlow's tough-minded Blitzen is a decided change from the previous participants. Blitzen is trying to get the herd to go on strike for better working conditions in light of Vixen's allegations, but when her efforts fall on deaf ears she opts for a more explosive solution.

Rusty Gunther is alternately funny and touching as Comet, a reformed gangbanger who owes his change in attitude and outlook to St. Nick (with the emphasis on "Saint"). Gunther charms with his tale of redemption, and he offers up the only real element of doubt. Kari Ely's boozy Dancer arrives next, explaining how she arrived at the North Pole after being persecuted for her work with the Reindeer Ballet. She enlightens us about Claus's kinky tendencies with the revelation of her own close call with "little Santa".

As the immensely troubled Donner, Alan Knoll smokes leftover cigarettes and chugs down Stag beer while elaborating on his tale of woe. As Rudolph's father, he suffered the humiliation of having a "deformed" offspring, and compounded that by allowing Santa to have his way with the young buck in exchange for leading the sleigh team. The fetching Julie Venegoni finishes up as Vixen, appearing in a tight leather outfit that emphasizes her decolletage, and, in the process weakens her case. But, she's smart enough to realize that she can't possibly win her fight against a cultural icon.

Sarah Armstrong's direction is well conceived, with each characterization smartly cast and finely tuned. Cameron Fuller's set design conjures up a tiny toyshop atop a pathway that contains a number of different levels for the actors to play off of. Alan Chlebowski's lighting is effective at creating the proper atmosphere. Felia Davenport's costumes range from sleazy to sexy, and are a precise fit for each of these disparate characters.

HotCity Theatre's riotously funny production of The Eight: Reindeer Monologues continues through December 19, 2009 at the Kranzberg Arts Center.

From This Author - Chris Gibson