Santaland Diaries

On a cold windy Monday night, I set out for a show.  It was Industry Night for a new company, Charm City Classics. And their inaugural event took place at a bar I had never heard of, so I got onto the google.  Low and behold, it is a Caribbean bar in the heart of Pigtown- who knew?  So I ordered some classic Carib cuisine and a cold island beer to wash it down.  I immediately texted my spouse to tell them!  We visited the islands this summer and we will be returning to Old Major.  But enough about that, let’s get onto the theater spectacle.

This quaint upstairs space seated about twenty and was home to the one-man show titled “Santaland Diaries.”  This is an essay by comedic writer David Sedaris.  It was published in his holiday collection “Holidays on Ice,” and has been adapted into a one-man show by Joe Mantello.  This rendition featured Patrick Regal as the elf, Crumpet.  This story recounts his time as an elf working at Macy’s for Santa and the insane stories that stem from such a job.

The pre-show music by Dusty Tupelo set the mood appropriately.  He was strumming away on his guitar with jolly tunes the spread the Christmas Cheer and set the tone for the evening.

Crumpet’s story is sort of the movie Elf’s antithesis.  It is about a man down on his luck that applies to be a Christmas store elf for the holidays and against all odds, gets the job.  Mostly surrounded by peppy and annoyingly jolly counterparts with codenames like Kringle, Jolly, Merry, and Tinsel, he instead chooses the codename Crumpet.  Regal even sheds his everyday clothes in front of us and dons his elf costume- and it is awful as you imagine.

His stories range from crying children, to uncomfortable parents, clingy and creepy co-workers, and Santas that have no business donning the beard.  Taylor Malone directed the piece and chooses to keep it intimate, with some pauses for laughs.  Some laughs were genuine and heartfelt; others didn’t land as well as expected.  All in all, Sedaris’ humor is lofty and dry at times and instead stirred tickles of laughter more than real lols.

Patrick Regal was magnificent.  He sold me hook, line, and sinker that he was an elf.  And that he hated it.  And that he hated people.  And that he hated the holidays.  And possibly Macys.  But that he had a sardonic wit and enough brains to recount it to us in an upstairs bar for money.  I like him already.

Crumpet makes some rather humorous and notorious comments though- like working the magic window and getting tired of telling the children to look in and see Santa so he told them if they looked hard enough they could find Cher.  Or when he talks about running ahead to tell the Santas the kid’s names so them seem omniscient, or working with a variety of warped Santas.  One he refers to as “Santa Santa” thinks he really is Santa.  And even in the breakroom answers questions as if he was Santa.  Jerome Santa has no time for anyone’s shit, and I feel him in my soul.  The story about Jerome Santa telling a child that Santa “no longer trafficking in coal, he takes bad people’s Apple appliances instead” is utterly brilliant.

All in all, this is a heartfelt good time.  It is hard to go wrong with some good food, cold beer and some laughs at the expense of the holidays.  You should back this new theater who is starting from the ground up and needs supporters to make it happen.

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?  You should go, buy some drinks, and enjoy a comical hour making fun of all the shit that is wrong with holiday joy.  Don’t be a Grinch- take some friends and enjoy this light look at the behind the scenes industry that brings you Winter Festivities.  Donate when the Santa hat comes around, these are the new kids on the block and need support to keep the joviality going beyond the Holidays. (I)

Running time one hour with no intermission.  Running at Old Major Bar through December 15th.

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