Seattle Public Theater Presents David Sadaris’ The Santaland Diaries
Patrick Lennon returns for his fourth go round as the star of David Sadaris’ The Santaland Diaries. At this stage, he is wearing the role as comfortably as an old fuzzy Christmas sweater. A pleasant evening is in store for all.
The play is based on a 1992 essay that Sedaris first presented on NPR’s Morning Edition. In 1994 he included the piece in a collection of his essays. He fleshed out and lengthened the work for a feature on This American Life in 1996. In that same year, Joe Mantello adapted the essay for the stage. The play has become a holiday staple for many a theater group ever since. The piece is based on Sadaris’ real gig at Manhattan’s Macy’s as an Elf assisting Santa and their whole photo shoot process. Since a close fact checking has revealed that some of the incidents are stretched beyond reality, the essay is now classified as fiction. But as a one-time customer of that particular Macy’s during the Christmas season, I can attest that the work’s verisimilitude is quite impressive. It is a very crazy scene there.
Director Kelly Kitchens keeps the one-man show moviing quickly and adds just the right dashes of stage effects to enliven the festivities without becoming obtrusive. I particularly enjoyed the flash photography bits employed when we were in on Santa’s posed shots with the little visiting children, intense parents and working elves.
At times Lennon seems to channel Sadaris’ persona, capturing that hilarious sardonic twinkle of the original author quite well. But Lennon has made enough of the monologue his own to keep the show original and entertaining on his own terms. I laughed every time he described the much sought after Elfin Hall of Fame.
The one hour play is able to blend such a delicious contrast: the narrator, David, must be called Crumpet the Elf while at work and often implies he has indeed hit rock bottom in his quest to make headway in NYC’s show biz scene. And yet, from somewhere in this low dark place, he is able to discover the often startling beauty of humanity stripped down to the bare bones of a pre-Christmas mad shopping rush.
The show runs in tandem with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, but unlike that play, Santaland is not intended for the entire family; parents may find some of the language problematic for young tots.
The Santaland Diaries runs from December 6th to December 24 at the Seattle Public Theater’s Bathhouse on Green Lake. Lighting by Richard Schaefer, set by Rick Lorig, Sound by Dustin Morache and Wardrobe (Crumpet’s pointy shoes and all) by Barbara Blunt. Tickets at www.seattlepublichtheater.org.