Chance Theater resident artist Casey Long could hardly have imagined back in 2004 that eight Christmases later he’d be performing in the Ninth Annual Chance production of The Eight: Reindeer Monologues. Yet, miracle of miracles, Casey and the rest of The Eight (reindeer that is) continue shocking and delighting Orange County audiences with year after year of raunchy, R-rated yuletide cheer, written by Jeff Goode (author of the equally adult-themed Poona The Fuckdog And Other Plays For Children).

As in Christmases past, Santa’s eight reindeer weigh in one by one on the sex scandal that’s been rocking the North Pole. Is it true that Jolly Old St. Nick (aka “that fat fuck”) sexually molested Reindeer Number 8 (aka Vixen), or is the sexiest of The Eight merely looking for her fifteen minutes of fame? In the hands of the accomplished cast (made up of Chance Theater members, frequent guests, and Eight Reindeer newbees), and under the masterful direction of Oanh Nguyen, the answers add up to laughs at a rate of about one every ten seconds, and a good number of “Did he/she really say that?” gasps to boot.

Once again, the reindeer are double or (in some cases) triple-cast, and since playwright Goode’s script is composed of monologs only (with nary the hint of a character description or stage direction), each and every performer gives his or her own (occasionally gender-bending) take on (in alphabetical order) Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Donner, Hollywood, and Vixen, and that includes reindeer-defining costumes.

 Casey Long and Ben Green

First up is Dasher (Long natch, since it’s “in his contract” to open every new season’s Eight.) In his lumberman’s plaid shirt and jeans, this is one reindeer who’d be just as comfortable driving a big rig as leading a sleigh. Dasher is none too happy about that “foggy Christmas Eve” when Santa asked Rudolph (with his nose so bright) to drive his sleigh, and he tells us so in no uncertain terms and with such frequent use of the F-word (as verb, adjective, and noun) that network censors would be bleeping from here to eternity, that is if any broadcast network would ever dare air The Eight.

 Christopher Renfro and Miguel Cardenas

About as different from Dasher as day is to night is Reindeer Number 2, Cupid (Christopher Renfro at the performance reviewed), The Eight’s only openly gay reindeer (though he assures us that there are closet cases among Santa’s team. Otherwise, he’d have to be a monk.) Previously reviewed Cupids have played the gaydeer as if a sassy black chick had commandeered a man’s Latino body and as a flamboyantly over-the-top Latino drama queen. The boyish Renfro is about as twink-o-licious as they come in tight, tight jeans and high-heeled boots, though like his predecessors, he appears to have mixed feelings about being the only reindeer Santa has not molested. (Why is it, he wonders, that all pedophiles are homophobic?) “Take it from me,” Cupid tells us, “Santa was a holly, jolly sex crime waiting to happen.”

 Andrew Eddins and Kyle Cooper

Reindeer Number 3 (Andrew Eddins in Matt Damon/Brad Pitt mode) was once known as Prancer, however since he’s the only one of The Eight to have starred in a movie (live action, not claymation, he reminds us), he’s changed his name to Hollywood. Amidst anecdotes about filming the real-life family flick Prancer (opposite Sam Elliott, Cloris Leachman and Abe Vigoda), Hollywood reveals the bone he has to pick with Vixen. That bitch has stolen his thunder with her claims of sexual harassment and wrecked his chances for a second Prancer sequel.

 Dannielle Green and Melinda Porto

Blitzen is no longer as in Christmases past an Irish feminist with “Feckin Eejit” (that’s “Fucking Idiot” to you Americans) on her tight black t-shirt, metal piercings all over her face, and tattoos on her arms and chest. Tall, leggy Dannielle Green plays the still angry Blitzen as an “Oops, I Did It Again” Catholic schoolgirl gone bad—with a warning for any child awaiting Santa’s visit: “A jolly fat pervert is coming to town, who knows when you’re sleeping, when you’re awake, and how to get into your house.” She’s also got a complaint she addresses to any male chauvinist deer out there: “Why can’t I walk through a herd of bucks in mating season without feeling like a piece of meat?” As for any bucks thinking of copycatting St. Nick, she offers this cautionary advice: “When a doe says no, it means no!” and hands out fliers to underline her point.

 Jackson Tobiska and Alex Bueno

Next up is Comet (previously a gal in cholo-boy mode and a karate-robed student of the martial arts), whom Jackson Tobiska plays as a sexy good-ol’-boy you fully expect to launch into a country and western ballad describing his rescue by Santa from a life of drugs. (“The only reason I’m not some road kill is because of St. Nicholas” might actually sound good sung with a guitar-pickin’ twang.) According to Comet, the Eight should show their gratitude to Santa instead of accusing him of misconduct. After all, “back in the ‘50s, if someone said she had been raped by St. Nick, no one would have believed her. She would have been brought up on charges.” As for Rudolph, Cupid gives us the 411: “He was just “a poor, deformed, retarded reindeer buck, and St. Nick turned him into somebody.” Doggonit, why can’t everyone just leave Comet’s benefactor alone?

 Kimberly Kocol and Kellie Spill

I’ve seen Dancer played as a prim-and-proper former ballerina and a “like buttah” Jewish matron. (How about that for night and day?) Kimberly Kokol’s Dancer is a wispy-voiced Minnesota debutante with Alice In Wonderland hair, who between serving audience members hot cocoa and herself some peppermint schnapps, offers her take on the matter. Why can’t her fellow reindeer just drop it? All right, Dancer did hear screams coming from Santa’s workshop that day, but so what? “I’m not walking out,” she declares in no uncertain terms. “I need this job!”

 Richard Comeau and Jeff Hellebrand

Rudolph’s dad is next, better known as Donner (Richard Comeau), the eldest member of the team, a bearded Grizzly Adams who knows how lucky he is to be one of The Eight. Until Vixen’s mate Victor died, Donner had no hope of ever pulling Santa’s sleigh. (“I got a bad back, I’m not a good flyer, and I smoke.”) Thus, he’s firmly on the side of the fat man in red, the man who let Donner’s “facially deformed, childlike son who would have been better off dead” lead the sleigh that foggy Christmas Eve. Even though poor Rudolph is now languishing in a padded cell, at least (as the song says) he’ll go down in history. Right?

 Camryn Zelinger and Jesse Schiffmacher

Finally, the doe we’ve all been waiting for gets her turn to speak, i.e. Vixen herself, once kissing cousins to Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods and later, her distant San Fernando Valley Girl relative (with not quite so many IQ points). The delicious Camryn Zelinger plays Vixen as a reality TV wannabe (think a cross between Paris Hilton, Khloe Kardashian, and Bethenny Frankel), who wonders rather disingenuously why the media won’t just leave her alone. Admittedly she is a slut (and proud of it), but, Vixen asks us, “Do you know what it’s like to be the most famous victim of all?” Perhaps it would be best for this doe to turn in her membership card in The Eight and head for warmer climes.

And there you have, it. A taste of the The Eight on Opening Night, though you can rest assured that Alex Bueno, Miguel Cardenas, Kyle Cooper, Ben Green, Jeff Hellebrand, Melinda Porto, Jesse Schiffmacher, Kellie Spill, and Long (who’s also set to appear as Cupid and Hollywood) will offer very different takes (and looks) when they take the stage.

From Dasher’s first “fuck,” delivered with just enough of a wink to let us know it’s all right to laugh, to Vixen’s final farewell, bag all packed and ready to go, this is naughtiest fun you’ll have all holiday season, with updated references to Glee, Justin Bieber, and Jerry Sandusky keeping Reindeer 2012 as up-to-date as today’s headlines or tonight’s reality show. (Uptight reactionary right-wing moralizers are hereby advised to stay home and watch Prancer or Prancer Returns on DVD.)

Multiple Scenie-winning Nguyen once again deserves highest marks for his inventive direction, from the hoof stomps which accompany each mention of “The Eight” to the “international” flavor he’s added to Goode’s ethnicity-unspecific script.

Comeau, Eddins, Green, Kocol, Long, Renfro, Tobiska, and Zelinger couldn’t be betteror more original in their very personal impersonations of (and fashion choices for) the famed 8.

Production designer Masako Tobaru has added giant red ribbons and reindeer-appropriate projections to the set of the concurrently running Little Women The Broadway Musical, the better to fit Goode’s very un-Louisa Mae Alcott-like scenario. Long’s sound design fits The Eight to a T. Bueno serves as associate director this Christmas, with Courtny Greenough as stage manager.

After nine Decembers in a row (with Season Ten already scheduled for a year from now), the folks at the Chance have gotten The Eight: Reindeer Monologues down to a science. As in seasons past, this reviewer offers the following advice: Reserve seats this very minute or you may find yourself having to wait till December of 2013 to find out what really happened behind closed doors on the night everyone’s been talking about.

The Chance Theater, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills.

–Steven Stanley
November 26, 2012
Photos: Doug Catiller, True Image Studio

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