“The Santaland Diaries” began as an essay by David Sedaris as a humorous account of his stint as a Christmas Elf in “Santaland” at Macy’s Department Store in New York City in 1989. Sedaris first read the account on National Public Radio’s Moring Edition and this was his first big break. Over time the piece was expanded and in 1996, Joe Mantello adapted the essay for the stage as a one-man, one-act play that debuted at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York on November 7, 1996.
In the Cleveland area,” The Santaland Diaries” played at Cleveland Public Theatre before moving to its current home, the Allen Theatre Second Stage. The show will be running through December 22, 2013. The show begins with Crumpet the Elf (now in his mid-fifties) telling about how as an out of work actor in New York City he took the Elf job a Macy’s department store to tide him over.
The set is quite lavish and well thought out. In the back portion is Santa’s “throne” with a candy cane motif arch over it and the raised platform it sits on. Everything has the look of Department Store Christmas Sets that have been less than carefully stored in a warehouse somewhere for many years. Everything has the look of being “slightly” distressed as the pieces and parts are dragged out, assembled and bumped into shape. There are the Art Nuevo Christmas Trees made out of painted plywood with knit socks hanging on them, various large “gift boxes” and a Santaland trail leading up to the “great man” himself.
Staring Allan Byrne as Crumpet the Elf, it is the tell all story of the living hell one has to endure while playing a velveteen covered fantasy character through the holidays at a major retail outlet. Allan’s portrayal is perfect. He is neither cruel nor condescending nor is he seeking revenge for the life altering experience. He simply tells it like it was. He relates about the extensive interview and hiring process necessary to join Santa’s Army as well as the training procedures. Crumpet is a rebel Elf who is there to earn a buck, survive the experience and have some fun with the “Santa Seekers” while doing it. Crumpet begins the show dressed in “civilian” clothes but as the play goes on he discards various pieces of clothing revealing his colorful elf costume beneath.
You learn of the various types of Elves and their duties as well as the liberties that these hapless denizens of the North Pole needed to take in order to keep their sanity. In short, it is a laugh riot. The show centers on the pressure that parents put on their children to conjure up happy Christmas memories while driving everyone around them to distractions. He also goes on in great detail concerning the other members of the crew and their particular quirks. My favorite was the “Express Lane Santa” who could have a child in and out in thirty seconds “No reason to tell me what you want, Santa already knows. Would you like a photo taken with Santa? Smile! (click). NEXT!”
There is also a touching point near the end when he tells of one Santa who truly relished the part and took time with each and every child and parent to make them feel loved and welcomed. It helped take some of the edginess off the show which was a good thing.
In short, “The Santaland Diaries” is a laugh riot. You will laugh during the show, you will laugh on the way home and you will laugh for the following days as certain lines come to mind. For those wanting a short break (the show is a scant 75 minutes long) from the hectic holiday season and the parade of traditional holiday fare this is a great way to relax, laugh and take stock of your CQ (Christmas Quotient).
Prude Alert: There is some language and crude references but it fits with the pressure that one can imagine comes with that type of job. If you are easily offended (or are an adult who still believes in Santa Clause) I suggest you skip this show. It is geared for adults and children should be left at home for this holiday show.
Shooting From The Lip (My Last Words): “The Santaland Diaries” now playing at the Allen Theatre Second Stage is an absolute hoot. The trials and tribulations of Crumpet the Elf will keep you merry for the rest of the holiday season and possibly beyond. Take a break and see this show.
“The Santaland Diaries” stars Allan Byrne and is produced by Cleveland Public Theatre with Raymond Bobgan and Beth Wood, Producers; Eric Schmiedl as Director; Becky Adams as Stage Manager; Aaron Benson as Set Designer; Jeff Lockshine as Lighting Designer; James Kosmatka as Sound Designer and Esther M. Haberlen as Costume Designer.
Tickets are on sale now for “The Santaland Diaries”, through December 22, 2013 at PlayhouseSquare’s Second Stage Theatre. Performance times are Wednesday through Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 5:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4:00 p.m. Tickets are available at the PlayhouseSquare Ticket Office, via phone at 216-241-6000 or online atwww.playhousesquare.org. Ticket prices range from $25.00 to $32.50. Groups of 15 or more call 216-640-8600.
Special Offer: Save $5 on tickets for The Santaland Diaries!
BUY NOW (use code ELF for $5 discount)
PlayhouseSquare encourages all guests to “Plan Your Visit” ahead of time by visitingplayhousesquare.org and clicking the “Plan Your Visit” tab where directions, parking information, dining options, lodging, ticketing policies and other helpful information designed to enhance guest experiences at PlayhouseSquare exist. Whether their visit is the first or one hundred and first, PlayhouseSquare is committed to making guest experiences both as memorable and hassle free as possible.
PlayhouseSquare is a world-class, not-for-profit performing arts center, arts education champion and downtown developer.
PlayhouseSquare receives public support with local tax dollars from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, to preserve and enrich our region’s artistic and cultural heritage.