Santa Claus is said to be very busy up in the North Pole this time of year, making his list (and checking it twice!) to find out who's been naughty and who's been nice. If you've been good, you may get lots of Christmas goodies in your stocking. If you've been naughty, then you might wind up with a lump of coal.
Count me among those who might get fossil fuel in my holiday sock this year, as I've been to see The Santaland Diaries on the Copaken Stage at the KC Repertory Theatre--and boy, are my ears burning! I have to admit I laughed quite a bit--but not at YOU, Santa!
I laughed because David Sedaris, who wrote the one-man monologue (brought to the KC Rep stage by actor Brian Sills) is a comic genius whose self-deprecating humor (à la Woody Allen) can easily bring grown men (or women) to their knees, convulsed in helpless, eye-watering giggles. I was fortunate enough to be able to watch him perform a number of his monologues live a few years ago, and couldn't even hear many of the best lines, as the audience was guffawing so loudly.
With more holiday sneer than cheer, The Santaland Diaries recounts the true story of an out-of-work writer (Sedaris) who, out of desperation, took a job as a Macy's Department Store Elf named Crumpet during the height of the holiday crunch.
Now, Santa, don't be offended when I tell you that Crumpet was not like your other Elves, industrious and genuinely filled with the Christmas spirit. No, this Elf sulked and goofed off on the job because he (1) definitely did not want to wear a cute little Elf uniform and be one of your merry Helpers, and (2) hated the whole commercial aspect of the holiday season. Santa, Crumpet was an Elf with a "Capital A" Attitude.
In spite of his scorn for the trimmings and trappings, Crumpet did a fantastic job of observing human nature (pushy parents, terrified kids, delusional "Santas" and all)--and what better gig is there for phenomenal people-watching than being an Elf? On any given day Crumpet witnessed "fist fights, vomiting, and magnificent tantrums."
Brian Sills does a good job of interpreting Sedaris' sardonic humor throughout the performance and infusing the show with his own wry expressions that elicit laughs of their own. The set is amazing--you can hear the collective gasp of astonishment in the audience as a huge present is opened to reveal Santa's Village.
And there's pre- and post-show entertainment, in the form of a musical duo, The Shenanigans (featuring Claybourne Elder and Shanna Jones), who intersperse their slightly naughty retellings of Christmas lyrics with recitations of slightly naughty holiday jokes.
So, hey, Santa, can you cut me a break? Being naughty was never this much fun.
THE FINE PRINT
You can catch The Santaland Diaries through December 24, 2013 at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre's Copaken Stage in downtown Kansas City. Call the Box Office at 816-235-2700 or go to kcrep.org.