December 17, 2008
Madison theater is usually good for at least one "alternative" holiday performance in December. Jeff Goode's The Eight: Reindeer Monologues has been staged here at least three times and this year StageQ presents a new dark comedy by the same writer: Seven Santas, a kind of Santa Claus is Comin' to Town by way of Alan Moore. Final performances are this Friday and Saturday, 10:30 p.m., at the Bartell.
The play "takes place somewhere in the mind of Santa Claus" and the seven Santas represent different aspects of his nature. The first half of the play is made up of each Santa delivering a monologue in the others' presence, and by the end you get Kris Kringle's origin story and commentary on the current state of Santa and Christmas. The humor, which got frequent laughter from the opening night audience, is edgy, cynical, profane, farcical, and - in the case of the child-loving aspect of Santa - a little creepy. You can get representative quotes from each Santa here.
Much of the second half, with the introduction of Mrs. Claus and a greater degree of interaction between the Santas, has a more wandering, free-form feel compared to the sharp monologues, though each character retains his or her voice. It's like the characters are attending the world's most difficult family Christmas, dealing with uncomfortable truths and revelations. It's usually satisfying to have some serious moments in a comedy, but be advised that some of these moments in Seven Santas are way serious.
There's a lot to like about the actors' performances in this play. A partial list includes Nathan Figueroa discoursing on Christmas economics like a 1980s Wall Street master of the universe, Nick Kaprelian telling a genial, somewhat goofy story of the first present he delivered, Tim Spires' gleefully comic stories of elven labor and the first sleigh operation, Alex Szele inducing an intriguing blend of discomfort and amusement as the part of Santa that likes children a bit too much, and Liz Angle as the fame-addled superstar Santa, making belligerent pronouncements like "I am the tree!" The costumes are an entertaining mix, from traditional Santa garb to fabulous elf homage to yuletide corporate to PBS children's show host.
Overall Seven Santas is provocative and often amusing, especially in the monologues, and a worthy late-night entertainment option.