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Reindeer Games

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The Eight are the elite. The team of flying reindeer that Santa uses to pull his magical sleigh. Great subject matter for a children's story, but Jeff Goode's "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues," is not for the kiddies. T. Ross Aitken directs this dark holiday comedy about a North Pole sex scandal involving Santa and Vixen (while revealing some other indiscretions), and it's not sugar plum material.

"The Eight" is a commentary on how differently individuals perceive a given situation. The pieces of the story emerge from the monologues delivered by each reindeer, beginning with the leader of the pack, tough guy Dasher (J.R. Foster), and ending with controversial sexpot, Vixen (Lauren Marinelli White).

Goode chose to hang his story on Santa and his reindeer because they are equally universal and innocuous, blank slates made comically shocking by their revelations. And it's the unique reactions of the reindeer, who orbit the scandal that puts this story together.

The play starts out funny enough with Dasher coming off like a typical top-dog trucker. Then it gets wonderfully silly with Jase Smith's oh-so-gay Cupid. "The Eight" settles into its irreverent stride through the confessions of Chris Hester's Prancer (aka Hollywood), save-the-planet liberal Blitzen (Suzanne Ankrum), reformed punk/skateboarder Comet (Smith) and spacey Dancer (Ankrum). Donner (Hester) then brings the audience down into solemn depths with his guilt-ridden story, followed by Vixen's sell-out ending.

The actors are successful at character development with the exception of the much-anticipated Vixen. White could play Vixen with either more sexual innocence (like a young Marilyn Monroe) or a tougher edge, and it would work. But her lack of clear choice with the character flattens the show's ending.

Do not pout. Smith and Ankrum demonstrate ability and versatility with each of their roles, and Goode's naughty script will keep you thoroughly entertained. Smith (as Cupid) is all gossip and innuendo when talking about Santa: "a walking, talking, holiday sex scandal waiting to happen. … Do you know how many tight little asses he's had across his lap?" And Ankrum's Dancer is so perfectly out of it you wonder how she made the team.

I, for one, am extremely grateful for the harder brand of Christmas cheer found in "The Eight." I often feel a need for something cynical to balance out all the elfin cuteness and sappy carols indicative of the season. S



The Richmond Triangle Players presents "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" Thursdays-Sundays at Fieldens Cabaret Theatre through Dec. 8. Show times are 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 4 p.m. 2033 W. Broad St. Tickets are $16-$22. For information call 346-8113 or visit www.rtriangle.org.



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