SAVANNA ROVIRA / THE EAGLE
“The Eight: Reindeer Monologues,” performed by AU Rude Mechanicals, is not what you’d expect from a Christmas play. There is nothing warm and fuzzy about a commentary on rape culture and what a good man does behind closed doors.
“It’s a unique show that tackles rape culture head on,” director Melissa Englander said. “It has really harsh opinions and it can be offensive. What I like most about it is that it asks a lot of questions, but it doesn’t give any answers.”
“The Eight: Reindeer Monologues” certainly doesn’t shy away from the most uncomfortable questions, like: “What if Santa Claus was a rapist, a pervert and a pedophile?” The show takes familiar childhood characters like Santa, Dasher, Dancer and the rest of the famous reindeers and uses them to make an allegory on rape and reality.
It all starts when Vixen publicly accuses Santa of raping her, and the whole of the North Pole is thrown into a frenzy.
“The Eight: Reindeer Monologues” was discontinued for a few years as a Rude’s tradition, but they’re bringing it back with a bang, donating all of their proceeds to the D.C. Rape Crisis Center.
“It doesn’t aim to be edgy, but our aim is to bring truth to the performance,” said sophomore Megan Fraederich, who produced the show. “All the performances are authentic. The characters are so real and made plausible and concrete.”
The characters are perhaps the most real part of the show. The use of familiar, nostalgic characters like Santa Claus and his famous reindeer add a surreal feel to the plot, and the twisted aberrations from the traditional view of the characters is at times agonizingly uncomfortable.
For example, Santa is made into a public figure who uses his influence and power for sexual favors, Mrs. Claus is re-written as a raging alcoholic and Rudolph, who never makes an appearance in the show, as a sexually traumatized victim.
Each of the reindeer takes turns in their own separate monologues describing the events and their own relationships to Santa.
Dasher (Julia Peltier) set the stage as the slightly bitter perfectionist with a superiority complex.
But when Cupid (Sean Sidbury) stepped up next, that’s when the show really starts going, with his bombastic, hysterical performance giving way to fits of sobbing and blunt confessions.
Caitlyn Wan’s haughty diva Prancer, nicknamed “Hollywood,” came on next, providing a bit of light comic relief with her amusing, albeit one-note performance.
Becky Topol gave an emotionally driven performance as Blitzen, but her character’s lack of quirks makes hers one of the less-memorable monologues.
Comet (Henry Pines) provided an interesting perspective as the lone supporter of Santa, giving a rather villainous role some sympathy.
Kate Kerns was delightful as Dancer, the tactless, bubbly reindeer whose cheery exterior hides her vulnerability.
Geoff Blizard gave a quiet, broken performance as Donner, the father of Rudolph who traded his son for a better life.
Finally, Jonelle Walker gave a powerful and emotionally raw performance as Vixen, the victim who was still viewed by many as the seductress, the temptress, the one who ruined Christmas.
The powerful performances by the eight actors made the show quite memorable, if a bit shocking and discomforting. It’s not a show that will get you in the spirit for Christmas, but that’s not what Rude Mechanicals set out to do. They set out to make a message, and with this performance, that message was definitely heard.