Worcester Telegram & Gazette - January 22, 2002

'Reindeer Monologues' is serious fun

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

By Bill Fortier
Telegram & Gazette Staff

SOUTHBRIDGE-- And now for something completely different.
     The British comedy group Monty Python made that phrase famous, and now the Gateway Players Theatre Inc. is doing something that really is different from their usual bill of fare.
     The players are presenting “The Eight: Reindeer Monologues” at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Gateway Arts Barn, 111 Main St.
     Tickets are $15 and proceeds will benefit the snow-removal fund of the Quinebaug Valley Council for the Arts & Humanities, or as local residents call it, the arts center.
     “The snow-removal costs were so horrendous last year we wanted to do something to help,” said Gateway Players President Patricia A. Mastro, who is directing the play.
     A sign in front of the arts center advertising the play warns that the approximately 80-minute presentation features strong language and sexual content.
     “You definitely should leave the kids home,” Ms. Mastro said of the play, which was written about eight years ago by Jeff Goode.
     “This play isn't going to be for everybody, but every once in a while you have to do something that's different,” she said.
     Here's how the play is described by a Gateway Players press release:
     “Santa Claus has been accused of sexual abuse by several of the reindeer. Could this possibly have happened? Is this most famous personality capable of such heinous crimes? The eight reindeer share conflicting views of their boss and the accusations.
     “This cutting-edge black comedy will entertain the audience, while at the same time giving them an opportunity to explore societal attitudes and expectations. For example, could Santa-priest-teacher really molest-use-abuse those in his care? Can we really believe those accusations -- or is there another issue involved? In a lighter vein -- is there a place for reindeer on the big screen -- and how come none have won Academy Awards?”
     Local resident Barbara Day, who plays the reindeer Blitzen, said the play explores how society deals with claims of sexual harassment.
     “The play really concerns society as a whole and it just doesn't concern Santa Claus. It's really an allegorical tale,” she said. “Among the questions explored in the play is, are the charges true and, if so, how are the victims treated? Essentially, the play asks, Did Santa do this and how do you react?”
     Ms. Mastro said she saw the play, in which Santa's eight reindeer give their version of what happened, several years ago in Baltimore. She said she believes this will be its first presentation in the Worcester County area.
     “When I saw it, it made me think about some of the things that happen in our society,” she said.
     “It's a black comedy and it's funny,” Ms. Day said. “It's a play that makes you laugh and it also makes you think.”
     Both Ms. Day and Ms. Mastro acknowledged this weekend's play is a little different than what Gateway Players usually presents, though Ms. Mastro said controversial plays have been presented before.
     “We did the play 'Chicago' some time ago, and some people were upset that we would do something like that. But I feel we need to reflect not just on the feel-good things but we also need to take a look at things that make people think.”
     Ms. Mastro said the recent sex-abuse trial and conviction of defrocked Boston-area priest John J. Geoghan made the play more topical.
     “We hope the response is going to be terrific,” said Ms. Day, who is in charge of publicity for the Gateway Players. “It's a funny play. I don't think we're going to scare anybody or do anything like that. All the characters are fully dressed but it is not a kid's show.”
     Ms. Mastro said she didn't know how many people might be attending the shows, which will be followed by receptions. She said there are about 60 seats available for each showing. Tickets can be purchased by calling (508) 764-4531. The arts center box office also will be open from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday.
     Although this weekend's presentation of the “The Eight: Reindeer Monologues” is the first show of the Gateway Players' 27th season, Ms. Mastro said it is a special offering to help the snow-removal fund and not part of the regular schedule. -30-

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

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