David Sedaris’ “SantaLand Diaries” has become a holiday favorite, for a variety of reasons.
It’s extremely well-written, for one — Sedaris is an excellent storyteller. It’s also an antidote to the traditional holiday fare — no treacle here, no last-minute tearful homecomings or a lost puppy arriving at the exact perfect moment under the tree. This is Christmas for those of us who have to work over the holidays and see humanity at its worst.
Yes, it’s true; while some people are nestled all snug in their beds, there are some of us out there dealing with people frantic to get the perfect holiday gift — and those people tend to be not-so-nice to customer-service personnel. It’s also hysterically funny, in a dark, twisted way.
WHERE: Schenectady Civic Players, 12 S. Church St., Schenectady
WHEN: Through Sunday
HOW MUCH: $17
MORE INFO: 382-2081, www.civicplayers.org
The story is simple: one man, telling us about the holiday season he spent working at Macy’s as an elf. In his season there, he came across Santas behaving strangely, fellow elves who were maybe just a little too over-the-top and managers who may or may not have lost any hope in humanity having to work this season over and over again. He does this in the most humorous way possible.
And if Wednesday night’s opening audience was any indication, the show’s going to get some serious laughs.
Actor, director superb
Mark Stephens plays Crumpet the Elf with a wry wink toward the audience at all times. He actually brings the audience into some of the jokes, and makes the show very accessible. His Crumpet is a bit less dark than the original story, and in productions in the past, but it’s a valid directorial choice. He’s a Crumpet who hasn’t let the holidays beat the life out of him. It was refreshing to watch. I was curious if, without the dark bent of the original story, it would work. It did.
Duncan Morrison directed the show well. Stephens was busy throughout, as he needed to be, but it never seemed to be solely to fill space or time.
Morrison also designed the set, and whenever you see his name on a program next to “set design” you know you’re in for a treat. The set was not only beautiful, it was functional, a Christmassy puzzle-box for Stephens to play in and with. A special tip of the hat goes to Jeffrey Scott’s sound design. The music in the brief set breaks could not have been more wisely or humorously chosen, and each song brought more laughter from the audience.
If you’ve gotten tired of the Hallmark Channel and the light displays and the constant joyfulness of the season, this show will be a good respite for you. Be prepared to laugh, and connect with someone who might be as jaded about the whole season as you are.