by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Jacksonville’s newest theatre company opened the second play in its short history, with a run of three performances of Jeff Goode’s “The Eight: Reindeer Monologues.” Their first production was the very successful collaboration with the Jacksonville Public Library of “Fahrenheit 451,” which played to a full house and critical acclaim.
The 5 & Dime promises to be a nomadic group since they have no permanent home. They hope to bring their craft to diverse locations; in keeping with that goal, “Reindeer Monologues” certainly had a unique setting.
All performances were held at the CoRK Arts District, at the corner of Rosselle and King Street in Riverside. The group used a loading bay of this 25,000 foot square building, with painted white walls and a high beamed ceiling. The stage was a flatbed trailer tastefully decorated with bales of hay against the rear wall. Seating choices included wooden benches, folding chairs, and more comfortable bales of hay. The lighting was very simple with two spotlights high in the ceiling and three strains of Christmas tree lights over the top of the stage. The location had clean restrooms and natural air conditioning, with the weather being cooperative and providing a comfortable, balmy temperature for opening night.
This play debuted in 2006 and has been done a number of times, and in some settings has become an annual event. Director Michael Lipp happened upon the script on a visit to New York several years ago and liked it so much that he bought a copy and tucked it away for a time when he could direct it. Well, the time was right in 2011 and The 5 & Dime was just the right group to do it. This is cutting edge theatre, and definitely X-rated material. The opening night audience had been well advised as to the content and language, so no one was shocked and from the comments we heard after the show, they loved it.
“Reindeer Monologues,” as the title implies, is a series of monologues by the eight elite reindeer who provide the transportation for Santa’s worldwide Xmas night visit. Their world is in turmoil because the media is demanding information about a recent accusation of sexual assault by Santa. The eight share their not at all jolly perspectives about St. Nick, as a pedophile, an animal abuser, a rapist and a bully in general.
The show opened with Dasher (Dave Alan Thomas), one tough reindeer who came across like a Marine drill sergeant, saying he would lead the team and make whatever sacrifices would be needed to bring out the facts.
Cupid (Edward Mourningwood) bragged that he was the only openly gay reindeer, and dressed to fit the part. This role was given some of the funniest lines in the show.
Prancer (Kent Lindsey) preferred to be known as Hollywood, and his chief concern was how Santa and the reindeer were portrayed in films and how that would affect his movie career.
Blitzen (MaryBeth Antoinette) was an outspoken feminist, dressed in a black leather jacket and carrying a whip, who proclaimed that Santa was a troll of a man, a pervert, who deserved to be punished. Ms. Antoinette came up with the only ad-lib in the show. When a train with a loud whistle passed by the building, she was quick to quip “Must be the Polar Express.”
Comet (Steve Anderson Jr.) was the only reindeer who stood up for Santa and was extremely grateful for the opportunity the fat fellow gave him to join the very special reindeer team. As a young buck he had taken up with unsuitable companions and gone bad; Santa saved him from incarceration and helped him turn his life around.
Dancer (Amy Noel J. Canning) seemed less concerned with Santa’s sexual proclivities than with having to work every December 24th and the various job benefits.
Donner (Bill Ratliff) was a poor unemployed herd reindeer when Santa offered him a coveted spot on the reindeer team. He was the father of Rudolph, a disabled and damaged calf. Donner was thrilled when Santa offered Rudolph a chance to lead the team but his misguided ambition led to his offspring’s sexual abuse by Santa. This was the most dramatic and sad monologue of the eight.
The final monologue was by Vixen (Staci Cobb) in a fur coat and stilettos, who is preparing for a court appearance. She describes in detail how she was allegedly raped by Santa, which led to the barrage of media attention and allegations that she is “the wench who stole Christmas.” Hers is the final testimony against Mr. Claus.
You may have noticed that Rudolph’s testimony is missing, which is because he was reportedly so emotionally damaged by the abuse he can no longer function as a working reindeer.
Costuming included antlers for all the reindeer, with clothing that emphasized aspects of character. If you have read this far, you have noticed that Director Lipp assembled an outstanding cast. Some of the monologues were funnier than others, but this is the way the piece is written. All the performances were indeed noteworthy, with excellent characterizations by everyone.
The 5 & Dime Theatre Company is very much a bootstraps organization yet in this season of giving, they made a charitable donation to Hubbard House from the proceeds of this event. Thanks go out to three businesses that assisted in putting on this production. They were CoRK Arts District, Bold City Brewery, and Intuition Ale Works.
The Dual Critics and Entertaining U wish the 5 & Dime Theatre Company a successful 2012. We can’t wait to see what you have in store for Jacksonville theatre fans next year!! The Board of Directors and Founding Members include: Caryl Butterley,Staci Cobb, Evan Gould, Judy Gould, Lee Hamby, Craig Leavitt, Joshua Taylor, Zeina Salame and Josh Waller. Check out the5anddime.org to stay updated.
THE EIGHT: REINDEER MONOLOGUES
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM