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The Santaland Diaries (2011)

a Holiday Special
CATEGORY :
by David Sedaris

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 4199

SHOWING : November 25, 2011 - January 01, 2012

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

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.


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REVIEWS

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Still Funny After All These Years
by Dedalus
Monday, January 23, 2012
5.0
(If this looks familiar, most of it is exactly what I wrote last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. Why does this show feel so fresh? This production makes me laugh hysterically, and that takes some doing!. New references popped up – “Occupy Santaland,” Lady Gaga, even Herman Cain Campaign Workers (“Those are the bitter elves”), so, it can be said, every year it’s a little different. Now all they have to do is fix those references to way out-of-date “One Life to Live” characters :-) )

In the spirit of the “It worked last time, so why not beat it into the ground” planning style of most theatre 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 even more pleasant this time than last, I’ll recycle my 2010 review, which recycled my 2009 review, which recycled 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 seventh 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, Megan Hayes and Enoch King take on a plethora of one-note roles to support Mr. Leaver’s Crumpet. (Again this year, the addition of two energetic interns, Cameron Bryce and Gwendolyn Labod, 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. Hayes and Mr. King have enormous fun with the wide range of stuff demanded of them. (2011 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. Hayes for keeping the erotic Candy Cane Schtick of actresses past. 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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