Theatre Review Print



Common Ground Theatre and Open Door Theatre: The Eight and The SantaLand Diaries Are Two Delightful Christmas Comedies

December 10, 2005 - Duham, NC:


The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, produced by the Open Door Theatre of Chapel Hill, NC and directed by Anthony Fichera, and The SantaLand Diaries, produced by Common Ground Theatre of Durham, are two decidedly offbeat R-rated Christmas comedies to cherish. There is not a maudlin moment in either one of these acerbic scripts, which will be performed in a double bill Dec. 15-18 at Common Ground Theatre.

The Eight is playwright Jeff Goode’s scathing satire about sexual harassment at the North Pole and unsafe working conditions during Santa Claus’ yearly run on Christmas Eve. The SantaLand Diaries is dramatist Joe Mantello’s sublimely cynical stage adaptation of David Sedaris’ wry reminiscences of a Christmas season that he spent working as an elf in SantaLand at Macy’s in New York City.

Jeff Goode excoriates Santa and Mrs. Claus in an octet of monologues delivered by eight of the reindeer who annually fly through fog and all sorts of frozen precipitation, dodge skyscrapers, and land Santa’s sleigh on icy rooftops where a buck or a doe can easily break a leg or suffer a fatal accident. That, plus allegations of monkey business at the North Poles, are the subjects of these side-splitting reindeer ruminations by three actors and three actresses wearing fuzzy antler headpieces.

Director Anthony Fichera stages this superb satire with style and wit. Michael Babbitt is wonderfully wry as Dasher, the embittered former lead reindeer whom the upstart red-nosed Rudolph supplanted. Dasher opens the show with some damning accusations of unsafe working conditions that caused injury and death to Vixen’s mate, Victor, and other members of the team.

Jeff Alguire (who also plays Donner) is a stitch as Cupid, a flamboyantly gay reindeer who claims that he has to fight off Mrs. Claus’ amorous attentions. Dante Walker (who also plays Comet) is very funny as Prancer, the tiny reindeer with the gargantuan ego whom the reindeer now call “Hollywood” because of the swelled head that he developed after he became the subject of his own movie. And Cheryl Napier is a scream as the indignant Blitzen, a fiercely feminist reindeer who labels Santa as “a jolly fat pervert.”

Kendall Rileigh is amusing as Dancer, an impossibly lithe reindeer in what else ballet duds; but Jessica Hiltabidle is a bit too young, fresh-faced, and too wholesome looking to be completely convincing as Vixen, the raunchy reindeer whose tabloid-style claims that she has had to fend off unwelcome advances by Santa are the subject of some controversy, even among the herd.

The SantaLand Diaries features a crackerjack comic characterization by Joe Brack, playing unemployed actor David Sedaris, forced to take a ridiculous job as an elf because he was young and broke and had no other immediate employment prospects. Brack gets guffaws from every twist in Sedaris’ hysterically funny tale of sordid goings-on behind the scenes at Macy’s SantaLand. Whether dressed in civvies or in the imaginative and colorful elf costume crafted by Barbara Ulery, Joe Brack is a veritable laff riot.

With The Eight: Reindeer Monologues for a curtain-raiser, and The SantaLand Diaries for a dynamite closing act, this joint presentation by the Open Door Theatre and Common Ground Theatre is must-see comedy that appeals to the inner Scrooge in all of us. Don’t miss it.

Common Ground Theatre and the Open Door Theatre present The Eight: Reindeer Monologues and The SantaLand Diaries Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 15-17, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 18, at 5 p.m. at 4815B Hillsborough Rd., Durham, North Carolina. $14 ($12 students and seniors), except half-price Thursday. 919/698-3870. Open Door Theatre: http://www.theopendoor.net/ [inactive 5/07]. Jeff Goode: http://www.jeffgoode.com/ [inactive 4/06]. The Eight: http://www.jeffgoode.com/pg8rm.htm [inactive 4/06]. David Sedaris: http://www.barclayagency.com/sedaris.html. The SantaLand Diaries: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0822216310.