'The Eight: ' It's humor that will sleigh you Satire: Dancer and Prancer and scandalous Vixen pull a sleigh full of tabloid stories in 'Reindeer Monologues.'

November 30, 1998|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

If Tiny Tim and elves and Rudolph -- especially Rudolph -- are a bit too treacly for you, you might want to drop in on AXIS Theatre's production of "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues."

Playwright Jeff Goode's series of eight short, satirical monologues by Santa's other reindeer is right out of the supermarket tabloids, whose front pages are projected on a screen at the back of the stage. "Santa's Forbidden Affair," blares one headline; "Vixen's Secret Santa Diaries," proclaims another.

One by one, the reindeer testify about what turn out to be potential criminal charges brought by Vixen against none other than St. Nick (or, as Dasher calls him, "Fat Boy"). Each reindeer has an attitude, caustically and comically conveyed by director Brian Klaas' cast members, who approach their roles with the utmost seriousness.

There's Michael Salconi's working-class Donner, a hard-knocks

reindeer who was only doing what he thought was best for his deformed son, Rudolph. Jennifer Brown's Blitzen is a rabid feminist with an agenda, branding Santa "a grotesque, libidinous troll of a man who knows when you are sleeping, knows when you're awake." Brian Chetelat's Comet, a former gang member who ran with Hell's Herd, credits Santa with helping him turn his life around. "Did St. Nicholas sexually assault one of the reindeer? How can you even ask me that?" he says with a mixture of hurt and indignation.

And is it my imagination, or does Mary Anne Perry's sultry Vixen look just a little like Monica? For that matter, don't be surprised if "Reindeer Monologues" has you thinking about the White House, instead of the North Pole.

Sometimes there are those magic moments when art and life intersect.

In this case, it's not just art and life, but comedy and Christmas as well.

The whole show lasts only about 70 minutes, but those 70 minutes will put some bite in your eggnog and some kick in your Christmas stocking.

Show times at AXIS Theatre, 3600 Clipper Mill Road, are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, with matinees at 2 p.m. Sunday, through Dec. 20. Tickets are $10 and $14. Call 410-523-2347.

Will 'Show Boat' float?

Here's the latest news on the touring production of "Show Boat," scheduled to come to the Mechanic Theatre in January but threatened by the current troubles besetting its producer, Livent Inc.

Michael J. Brand -- executive director of Jujamcyn Productions, which books and manages the Mechanic -- says the theater is in 11th-hour negotiations to maintain the current engagement.

"If these negotiations fail, we are prepared to substitute a first-class touring production in its place," Brand said, adding that the substitution would probably be a new large-scale tour of a pre-Broadway production. "We'll know the outcome of this effort in a couple days," he said.

V-Day play

Last January, Eve Ensler brought her powerful, funny and moving one-woman show, "The Vagina Monologues," to Center Stage as part of its Off Center Festival. A month later, the show was performed in New York, with an all-star cast, as part of V-Day 1998, a Valentine's Day campaign to end sexual violence against women.

Now plans are under way for V-Day 1999: The College Initiative. This Valentine's Day, students at colleges across the country -- including the University of Maryland -- will perform the piece, which is based on Ensler's interviews with more than 200 women. V-Day 1999 will be simultaneously celebrated in Great Britain, with a host of British actresses performing the piece at London's Old Vic. For more information about V-Day 1998, visit the Web site http: //www.feminist.com/vday.

Meanwhile, if you want to catch Ensler's original interpretation of the piece, she is appearing in a limited run at Washington's Studio Theatre, 1333 P St. N.W., through Dec. 19. Show times are 8: 30 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays; 7 p.m. and 9: 30 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sundays. (No performances Dec. 5.) Tickets are $19.50-$36.50. Call 202-332-3300.

Volunteers sought

The Baltimore-based drama and movement therapy group, the Magical Experiences Arts Company, is still looking for volunteers for its performances aimed at helping emotionally disturbed adolescents.

Volunteers would work at the Regional Institute for Children & Adolescents from 4: 30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays. Experience is not necessary. Call 410-358-9293.

Changes for Channick

After four years as associate managing director of Center Stage, Joan Channick has left that post to become deputy director of Theatre Communications Group, the New York-based national service organization for regional theaters.

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