The Eight: Reindeer Monologues | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues 

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Over the past eight years there have been lots of productions of Jeff Goode's jaundiced reindeer's-eye view of the goings-on at Santa's sweatshop. And all these shows have been at least passably entertaining: Goode expertly combines a satirist's urge to skewer intellectual and moral cowardice with a flair for nonstereotypical comic characters. But only Frank Pullen--who staged the play in 2000 and revives the Journeymen's production now--seems to know how to make this Santa send-up both outrageous and touching. Plenty of directors over the years have gotten laughs out of the idea that Santa is a cruel, lecherous predator--"a sex crime waiting to happen," as Cupid, the only openly gay reindeer, calls him. But a director with Pullen's subtlety and finesse can reveal the complicated emotional underpinnings of this superficially glib tale. In one of the play's more nuanced, moving moments, Donner reveals in passing that Santa's most vocal defender--the macho Dasher--was not only aware of Santa's transgressions but exerted pressure to restrain the jolly old pervert. Interestingly, the more honestly and seriously Pullen gets his cast to play their parts, the more hilarious Goode's jokes become. Holy Covenant United Methodist Church, sanctuary, 925 W. Diversey, 773-857-5395. Through December 28: Fridays-Saturdays, 9 PM. $10.

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