Reviewer: Elizabeth Detloff
Venue: Pit and Balcony
Occasionally one might find themselves scrolling on Facebook and suddenly come across a photo of an old high school friend. One might discover their friend is cast in Pit and Balcony’s After Dark holiday show called The Eight Reindeer Monologues. One may grab another high school friend and tickets to the Saturday show and head to their first After Dark production.
I have been a long time fan of Pit and Balcony and have been to many Friday night and Sunday matinee shows, but I had yet to catch one of their After Dark productions. I settled in for a cozy afternoon nap so I could be wide awake for the eight thirty show. Don’t judge this middle aged writer! I do know that the After Dark productions are adult only and with subject matter suited for eighteen and up attendants. I was prepared to see a play that would be a little naughtier than nice.
Procuring a holiday crafted cocktail we made our way to our seats. The stage was minimally set to look like a therapist’s office, with holiday fare and a faux fireplace. The Eight Reindeer Monologues by Jeff Goode is exactly that. Each of the eight most famous reindeer of all time take the stage, or couch, to tell their version of the truth. A scandal has hit the North Pole and it threatens the holiday that everyone loves so much. Can Christmas survive after all is revealed?
We open on Doc Less playing Dasher. Dasher with a flask and a drunken angry rant. Over the next hour and a half we will see the eight reindeer take Santa’s side or work to take him down. Some reindeer like Hollywood/Prancer, played by Josh Fick, are only concerned with how the
scandal will affect them and their career. Others like Comet, played by Jake Pearsall, are behind jolly ol Saint Nick no matter what.
We got moments of pure bawdiness with Cupid, played by Justin Russell. Cupid had the audience in stitches with his outrageous jokes about salt licks and the Claus’ kinks. We glimpsed trauma being revealed as Blitzen, Donner, and Dancer brought to life the heavier monologues. It seemed like the reindeer games being played at the North Pole are maybe not always consensual.
Finally Vixen, who is the center of the scandal, will take the stage. Portrayed by Jennifer Rohde, Vixen will reveal her truth and how she is willing to be the villain so that the world does not lose Christmas. Every confession up to that point proves Vixen is the victim, yet she will sacrifice herself. I don’t know much about reindeer but this is a very human thing to do. My heart broke not just for Vixen but for every person who has been in a situation like this. Just because we are in the midst of the holiday season does not mean things like assault stop in the real world.
I found myself wanting Santa to take the stage. The saint and the sinner portrayed in eight monologues. He never appeared, and that was the point. Even though there was no doubt Santa is the bad guy in this play, we only get to see how he has affected eight lives and the ripple touching far beyond that.
Upon leaving the theater Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer by Gene Autry was playing on my car radio. I wondered if I would ever be able to listen to that song again without thinking of the darker side of Christmas that was told to me on that stage. We retired to Liquid Lounge to deconstruct our thoughts on the show. We laughed at how the audience attending acted much differently at the After Dark show. Every time the lights went down the conversation went up. That was the point according to director Trashan Donald. To start a conversation. The conversation of assault, victim shaming/blaming, guilt, and how it can and does happen to anyone. Even fictional holiday characters we have loved since childhood.
Pit and Balcony has a lot of shows still upcoming in their ninety second season, including another After Dark Performance in June. Our local theater never seems afraid to bring the darkness under the stage lights.