Produced by: TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
Directed by: Jeffrey Lo
Featuring: Max Tachis
When: December 5 through December 23, 2017
Where: Lohman Theatre at Foohill College, Los Altos Hills
Tickets: $20-$45. Visit https://theatreworks.org/201718-season/201718-season/santaland-diaries/ or call 650-463-1960
as Santa's most sarcastic elf
hilarious 'The SantaLand Diaries'
Are you sick of Santa? Had enough of elves? Really tired of Rudolph? Then maybe a dose of David Sedaris's witty and sarcastic story of his experiences as an elf in Macy's SantaLand is just what you need. Sedaris is one of NPR's most popular commentators, and a best-selling author in the United States and abroad.
When Sedaris was a young actor looking for work, he moved to New York to follow his dream of being on the long-running soap "One Life To Live." But as most actors do, he had to find temporary work to get through the lean times. One Christmas he spots an ad for a job as an elf in Macy's SantaLand. And so the story starts.
He wonders how hard it can be, and is surprised at the lengthy interview process, as well as the drug test (which he's sure he didn't pass). But on being offered the position he must choose a name and whereas the other elves choose Christmassy names such as "Jingle" or "Frosty," Sedaris decides on the rather less traditional "Crumpet."
Max Tachis does a wonderful job as Crumpet. He captures Sedaris's wit and delivery and breezily leads us along on his journey. Sedaris's sardonic style of writing can seem a little bitter on first reading, Tachis told me. But he was lucky enough to see the author in San Jose reading some of his other essays only a month or so before the show, and realized that there was no bitterness there, just a sarcastic way of describing people and situations.
There are quite a few situations to be described during Sedaris's short but eventful life as an elf. There are the "Oh My God" and "Vomoff" corner duties for instance. The first describes what parents say as they arrive at the back of the hour-long line to see Santa, and the second the corner with mirrors where agitated and over-sugared children lose their lunches. All elves have these duties on rotation and must always have a smile on their face and a cheery disposition. It's Christmas, after all.
Crumpet's costume (by Jill C. Bowers) is standard elf-issue — green pantaloons, Pippi Longstocking leggings and a hat with a bell. Tachis extracts maximum value out of the embarrassment of its first wearing. He wanders about the stage, sometimes interacting with audience members, sometime lounging on the oversize Santa chair with the lollipops sticking out of it.
Occasionally, a star of stage or screen would be in Macy's and the elves were told not to draw attention to them. Naturally, Crumpet does the opposite, and sees how many times he can drop "Dwayne The Rock Johnson" into conversation with parents and children.
It seems that Tachis as Sedaris as Crumpet is not very happy with life as an elf, as he counts the days down to Christmas. But he talks wistfully of the parents-as-film-directors, determined to get the perfect shot of their child with Santa, the little girls whispering their names to him so he can prep Santa, and the little boy who pees in the (fake) snow. To say nothing of the Santas themselves. Every Santa does the job in his own way. For some it is just a job, but for others it's a career.
David Sedaris often writes about his life experiences and growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina, as the second child of six. He pokes fun at his Greek-American family life, his lack of acting success, his homosexuality, and obsessive behaviors. He first read his "SantaLand Diaries" on NPR's Morning Edition in 1992 and it has since become a holiday tradition, according to NPR.
The great thing about a one-man show with minimal scenery and props is that it forces your imagination to fill in the visual gaps. Everybody likes having a story read to them and Tachis is a great storyteller. So get a glass of eggnog, put on a big ugly sweater and get in line to see Santa. Ho, ho, ho.
Email Tony Lacy-Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org