Presented by Happy Medium Theatre Company
By Jeff Goode
Directed by Mikey DiLoreto and Lizette M. Morris
December 17-22, 2013
The Factory Theatre
791 Tremont St. Boston, MA
Happy Medium Theatre on Facebook
Review by Danielle Rosvally
(Boston) Difficult issues are difficult to tackle. It seems simplistic to put things this way, but of the theatre I’ve seen which attempts to handle “BIG PROBLEMS”, the vast majority is markedly ineffective.
This comes from a variety of factors: it’s easy to devolve into bad writing habits when you’ve got a hot-button issue on your hands. I wish I could tell you how many times I’ve been bludgeoned with the two-by-four of justice or honestly by a well-meaning playwright who was simply trying to engage with society’s greater schema. Unfortunately, those instances have been so traumatic that I’ve managed to wipe most of them from my memory and replaced them with visions of dancing sugarplums.
The Eight: Reindeer Monologues presented by Happy Medium Theatre is absolutely not one of those instances. I can’t entirely tell you what I was expecting when I walked into the theatre (it definitely involved cheesy stuffed reindeer horns and South-Park levels of wacky satire). For that, this show subverted my expectations, kept me entertained, and led me down its dark and winding path to twisted icky issues in a way that even I managed to follow without resistance.
Let’s start with the writing: Jeff Goode can turn a tale (and a tail). Knowing that he wanted to attack some pretty weighty issues, he eases you in with light-hearted comedy. As the evening progresses, the monologues grow deeper, darker, and more unsettling. Using this masterwork of pacing, Goode then scaffolds a framework via his fantasy world in which he can discuss the serious stuff without beating you over the head with it.
Of course, even good writing can suffer from poor execution. In a show like this, every link in the chain matters. The production, as its title may lead you to believe, is a series of eight monologues each delivered by a different member of Santa’s Christmas reindeer. Much like pulling a sleigh, holding up this show is a team effort and I’m pleased to report that this all-star cast made the run with gusto. Every single one of these actors was a stellar interpreter of the sometimes-ridiculous (but never absurd) character she was set to portray. The acting was fully embodied; the humanity was ever palpable; and I believed every single word that came out of the reindeer’s mouths. Pro tip: a great way to gauge the reality of a moment is in the questions. If an actor asks the audience a question and you are actually tempted to respond to it, the actor is doing her job correctly. Needless to say, I awkwardly stumbled for answers a lot last night.
This phenomenon was also the magic of this specific show in this specific space: Factory is a tiny little chameleon of a theatre. Every time I walk in there, the room is set up differently. Happy Medium was thus able to customize their seating layout to best benefit their piece. Additionally, the actors could see every single audience member. Goode’s show is written to be an intimate chamber piece and so worked brilliantly in Boston’s living room.
Expect the unexpected from the reindeer. Also, make sure that you have a copy of the 1964 Claymation animated special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on hand to watch afterwards. I think it will really enhance the experience.
In case I haven’t given you enough reasons to go see The Eight, consider as well that this is a charity production. All proceeds are being donated to various Boston-area charities (they will tell you when you pick up your tickets which charities are being benefited on any given night). What a great way to give back to the community this holiday season; with sex, lies, and antlers.