Monday, December 30, 2013

The Santaland Diaries at Florida Rep's ArtStage Studio Theater

The holidays snuck up on me this year, with nary a single decoration pulled out of storage to celebrate the season.  It's not that I'm a scrooge -- I love a good Christmas tree as much as the next person -- but my energies were diverted elsewhere, and no elves magically showed up to help out.  And so it seems fitting that my choice of holiday theater to take in with my parents was David Sedaris' The Santaland Diaries, the hilarious one man show about an unemployed writer's time working as an elf at Macy's flagship Herald Square store.

Jason Parrish as Crumpet
For the fifth year running, Jason Parrish donned his striped tights and velvet smock to assume the role of David/Crumpet the elf.    From the first moment of the 65 minute performance, Parrish had the audience in the palm of his little elfin hand.   (Except, that is, for the woman sitting across from us who nearly slid out of her seat and onto the stage as she fell asleep.  My mother has a tendency to nod off as well, and I had warned her that it would be very noticeable if she did so given the size of the theater.  Happily, she was laughing too hard for that to be a concern.)

Parrish seems to have been born to play the part of David/Crumpet. He is a great comedic actor, and did a wonderful job mimicking the other players in the world of Santaland.  I actually felt at times like he was channeling Nathan Lane.  Of course, he did have truly funny material to work with.  I would be hard-pressed to say which vignette made me laugh the loudest.  Was it his recollection of a parent who, when faced with a kid who had to go to the bathroom after standing on line for an hour, told her son to pee into the snow surrounding Santa's house? (Appearances to the contrary, they WERE on the 8th floor of Macy's.)  Or perhaps it was the story about when one of the Santas ordered Crumpet to sing "Amazing Grace" and he did so (very well) a la Billie Holiday.  Or maybe it was the tale of an African-American woman (with plenty of attitude) who didn't feel the Santa on duty was quite dark-skinned enough.  To hear David Sedaris share some of the stories from his real life experience as an elf, click here

Gene and Jan at the show
The Santaland Diaries has become a holiday phenomenon since it first hit the stage in 1996 with Timothy Olyphant (aka Sheriff Raylan Givens in Justified) as David/Crumpet.  (Now that is one performance I would have loved to have seen!)   If the show comes to your neck of the woods next year, get thee to the theater.  After all, there's nothing like a good belly laugh to make everyone's holidays brighter.

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