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The Santaland Diaries (2009)

CATEGORY : COMEDY
by David Sedaris

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 3599

SHOWING : November 27, 2009 - January 03, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Now celebrating its 11th SMASH year!

The outrageous holiday comedy, written by NPR comic genius David Sedaris, stars Crumpet, a rebel without a Clause who recounts the true-life tale of an out-of-work writer's stint as a Macy's Department Store elf.

A great idea for your office holiday party!


CAST & CREW LIST
Cast Ames Adamson
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REVIEWS

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Come for the Wit, Stay for the Ensemble (and the Wit)
by hardlybrantley
Sunday, December 13, 2009
4.5
I'll admit my bias--I had already seen this show once before, a few years ago, so I walked into it this year already knowing that I liked it. 'Santaland Diaries' has become known all over the country as an edgy 'anti-Christmas Carol' and despite some dated contemporary references in the script (to 1990s characters on 'One Life to Live' whom probably few people remember at this point, for instance) it still carries plenty of satirical clout.

Mr. Leaver makes a fantastic David Sedaris. He prances, flirts mercilessly with audience members, insults without hesitation, and for most of the show wears the bemused grin that I imagine Sedaris probably wore while writing the original short story. After a decade of playing this role his witty audience interactions have become skilled and effortless--after discovering Thursday night that an audience member was a Florida State alum, he asked if their mascots were the 'Semen-holes'...

Apparently most productions of the play treat it as a one-man show. While I'm sure Mr. Leaver would be more than up for the task, I just can't imagine it would be half as entertaining without the antics of the two 'sidekicks' his version gives him, played this year by Amanda Cucher and the returning Enoch King. I have to tell you, I loved Mr. Leaver's performance, but for me it was Mr. King who stole the show. His sense of comedic timing and ability to play a remarkable range of characters--male and female--make him an absolute joy to watch. No matter how ridiculous the character, Mr. King is one hundred percent committed. His turn as a mother with some very particular demands when choosing a Santa for her son left the audience (and Leaver) laughing long after he left the stage. And though there were parts of Marcie Millard's performance a few years ago that I missed this time around, Amanda Cucher had some nice touches. My favorites include her turn as a horrified mother whose son becomes traumatized by Crumpet, and of course as the Macy's manager, who delivers what has to be one of the best closing lines ever to appear in a play.

The night I was there the pacing seemed a little off for the first half of the play, particularly after Ms. Cucher missed an entrance. But these things happen, and I'm sure that was probably a one-time deal.

Once you find yourself left haggard by Christmas shopping and commercials, treat yourself to this show. And yes, be sure it's a treat night without the kids.
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This Just Never Gets Old
by Dedalus
Thursday, December 10, 2009
4.0
(If this looks familiar, most of it is exactly what I wrote last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. The only thing I have to add this year is – why does this show feel so fresh? There were fewer topical references – mostly dealing with Bernie Madoff and “Dancing With the Stars,” – 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 2008 review, which recycled my 2007 review, which recycled my 2005 review, which recycled 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 fifth 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 Amanda Cucher and Enoch King, who take on a plethora of one-note roles to support Mr. Leaver’s Crumpet. (This year, the addition of two energetic interns, Jenna Edmonds and Chris Hedrick, filled out the cast to Full-Ensembleland.) 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 Ms. Cucher and Mr. King have enormous fun with the wide range of stuff demanded of them. (2009 Note – this year, I again 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, thank you Ms. Cucher for keeping Marcie Millard’s erotic Candy Cane Schtick. 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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