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The Santaland Diaries (2008)

a Holiday Show
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by David Sedaris

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 3273

SHOWING : November 28, 2008 - January 04, 2009

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Crumpet the Elf sallies forth for his umpty-umpth foray into Macy's Santaland. Harold Leaver again slips into the role as easily as a pair of comfy Holiday Slippers. A Comedy Delight for the Seasonal Cynic!


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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Once More With Giggles
by Dedalus
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
5.0
(If this looks familiar, most of it is exactly what I wrote last year. The only thing I have to add this year is – why does this show feel so fresh? The set was different due to running in repertory with “Madeline’s Christmas” and there were fresh topical references -- mostly dealing with the Obamas, the Palins, the Clintons, and the I-Phones – but Mr. Leaver still makes it feel like it’s his first time telling this story. That takes some doing!)

In the spirit of the “It worked last time, so why not beat it into the ground” planning style of most theater companies (and, to be fiscally responsible, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that style), and since, to its credit, my reaction to “The Santaland Diaries” was just as pleasant this time as last, I’ll recycle my 2007 review, which recycled my 2005 review, which recycled of my 2004 review. Yes, Sloth is running amok in the Dedalus-land again!.

For the Umpteenth year, Horizon is presenting Harold M. Leaver as Crumpet, the Macy’s Elf in David Sedaris’ “The Santaland Diaries.” This was my third fourth visit, and I must say, I once again had a laugh-out-loud, incredibly good time.

Written as a monologue, Horizon makes the excellent choice of adding two Protean Character actors, Marcie Millard and Enoch King (Yikes! No Cross-outs needed! It’s the same cast as in 2007!), to take on a plethora of one-note roles to support Mr. Leaver’s Crumpet. The penchant for schtick that sometimes undercuts many one-note performances, is here the perfect device to quickly present character, nuance, and laughter, all with the same over-the-top gesture or expression. Ms. Millard and Mr. King have enormous fun with the wide range of stuff demanded of them. (2008 Note – this year, I got the feeling their chief function was to try to corpse Mr. Leaver, a task at which they often succeeded. It’s to Mr. Leaver’s credit that he made me feel they were making David Sedaris break up, not Harold Leaver. Also, has Ms. Millard always done that – um – thing with her candy cane? Delicious!)

But it’s Harold Leaver who really sells this show. On stage for the entire 90 minutes of the play, he must interact with the audience, with his costars (who, more often than not, lose in a silent scene-stealing battle of upstaging schtick), and with the witty words Mr. Sedaris has put in his mouth. Sedaris is famous for his short pieces of whimsy, designed to celebrate eccentricity, finding humor in the darkest of places (a reading of this play's companion piece, "Season’s Greetings,” will show just how dark he can get), but ultimately, making us like the characters he so thoroughly skewers. Crumpet and his story fully embodies every irritation we experience during the Holidays, without losing the sense of fun that compels even the most irreligious of us to celebrate it. There is even a moment at the end that threatens (almost) to fall into the sentimentality that overwhelms most Christmas Theatre fare, reminding us that even this has its place (if not for too long).

Yes, this show is a Christmas cynic’s delight. It is also filled with a good will towards its characters that so many pundits seem to be losing this year. (I'd like to know when anger and bitterness towards someone wishing you a "Happy Holiday" became part of "Good Will Towards Men" -- but I digress). I strongly urge you to visit (or revisit) Crumpet before it’s too late.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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