Chicago Arts & Entertainment - December 26, 2002
When Journeymen Theater Company Artistic Director Frank Pullen first heard about "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues," he knew writer Jeff Goode was on to something. Something sick and twisted perhaps, but something nonetheless.
Journeymen Theater's second production of the show opens at 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, and runs Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 28 at the Holy Covenant United Methodist Church, 925 W. Diversey Boulevard, Chicago.
"There was a theater company in the early '90s called Dolphin Back Theater, and Jeff Goode, who was affiliated with them, wrote this show," Pullen said. "They were doing it on a yearly basis for two or three years, then they either broke up or stopped doing the show. Jeff Goode, since then, has been getting the show produced all over the place.
"Well, I knew about it back then, and two years ago we were looking to do something, a fun type of production during the holidays," Pullen said. "So we thought of doing the monologues, and it did really well. We would've done them last year, but time didn't permit it. Now that we have a semi-permanent space, we thought of doing it again."
So what's it about? Well, Santa Claus is called a "walking, talking, holly jolly sex crime waiting to happen" by one character. Brace yourself, kids - it's the Clarence Thomas trial at the North Pole.
Pullen said they held auditions for the twisted show a while back, and that one person from their original production is returning. Much of the rest of the original cast has been scattered all over the country in the past two years.
"This show is completely different from what Journeymen normally do," Pullen said. "It's going to give people a more upbeat look at what we can do. We're known more for our dramatic works.
"It probably all goes back to my mom saying ´You need to do a comedy,'" Pullen said. "She said we were doing too much depressing stuff."
Pullen said rehearsals have been great thus far, and that a monologue show is easy to put together because if you cast great actors, your work is practically done.
The theater has called upon a diverse cast to fill the roles, and Pullen said that's one of the show's strengths.
"The actor playing Cupid is Filipino," Pullen said. "He is actually the one who inspired me to do this show again, because he would do this funny character during rehearsals at our other shows, and I thought it'd be great for the Cupid character in this show. Basically, we have a gay Filipino/Mexican Cupid. The only other person I can think of who does a character like this is John Leguizamo.
"Another one of the reindeers is a militant African soul sister," Pullen said. "Vixen is a surprise. You're waiting to see her for the entire show, and she just happens to be of Asian descent. It's very interesting to see her come out.
"With the reindeer set up, the cast's diversity has been used to kind of make them different," Pullen said. "The script does that a lot already. But we've kind of asked ´Who are these reindeer?' We've tried to truly develop the characters, so it's not just like an audition piece."
"Monologues" also got the highest recommendation a theater can hope for: The show got good responses from the show's creator when he came out from Los Angeles a couple years ago and watched the show.
"I was so scared when he came to see our production," Pullen said, "because we had tweaked some of the words in the script. I was like ´boy, I hope he likes it.' He said he liked it because the actors made the characters their own. I hope the audience reacts the same way.
"It's a great comedic production," Pullen said. "Jeff has created a great holiday show because it's light and it's funny. It's a good show for people who are a little sick of the holidays and all the shopping and stress. It's a way to relieve some of the angst and madness that go along with the holidays, as well as remember some of the joys."
"The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" opens at 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, and runs Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 28 at the Holy Covenant United Methodist Church, 925 W. Diversey Boulevard, Chicago.
Tickets are $10. To purchase tickets, or for more information, call 773-857-5395 or log on at www.thejourneymen.org.