By Mark A. Leon
The ‘Santaland Diaries’, adapted from the wildly humorous book by David Sedaris, opens this week at Woolfe Street Playhouse and plays through December 23rd.? Before I get into detail about this one act journey of hilarity, personal insight into human behavior and a touch of emotional sentiment, I would like to share a personal story that helped me prepare for this performance.
For those that do not know, Santaland Diaries is a true account of a 30 something who accepts a job as one of the Macy’s Santa Land elves during the holiday season in New York in the 1980’s.? Back in 2002, I suffered a personal tragedy and was unable to face the daily trials of a career let alone people.? I wallowed for a while and slipped into a slight depression, which entailed long days on the couch and a lazy gourmet meal of wine and ramen. After browsing through the print classifieds (some of you may not even know what that means), I saw an ad for an Easter Bunny.? “I could totally rock that,” I said to myself.? After a fine audition, outlining my extensive acting career from second to fourth grade, I got the gig.? One little thing that was not in the ad.? This “gig” was in the center of the Mall of America, the second largest mall in the county.? Don’t fret, I rocked it.? I rocked it so well, I was fired several weeks later.? Not my fault, but I will leave you with these lessons learned:
- ?A giant six-foot bunny trying to get onto a roller coaster without paying does not work.
- Following a child after he begs to have the Easter Bunny come home with him does not play well with moms.
- Hugging the sad looking teenage girl behind the pretzel stand because she seems to hate her job and life will not suddenly make her love her job.
- Finally, a giant oversized Easter Bunny outfit with a cute pink bow is hot as the dickens inside – For those aspiring character actors, it is not all glamor.
Based on that experience I was ready.
Village Rep Associate Artistic Director Robbie Thomas stars in this one actor performance and he does not disappoint.? His one man, one act played out like a symphony of drunk friends coming back for their class reunion and thinking they could still play in the recorder club together.? From the moment “Crumpet” (as he character was named during the elf days) entered the stage, the laugh track began.? Do expect some scenes to hit home personally.? From the flirtatious elf, to the controlling mother; crying baby to the obnoxious dad, Crumpet saw it all.? More importantly, he took it in with poise.
We have all had our share of miserable jobs; some more humorous than others.? The ability to become one with the experience, extract life lessons and impart that wisdom onto others is a gift.? David Sedaris’ gift and Robbie Thomas’ interpretation is one worth unwrapping this season.
‘Santaland Diaries’ is a fast paced, side splitting seasonal hit.? Set in the back stage of the playhouse, this production offers the audience a level of intimacy we rarely see in local theater.? Through snappy dialogue and quirky facial expressionism, the pace maintains a high level.? Caution, you may find yourself curbing your laughter time to a minimum as not to disrupt the flow.
It reminds us to not get too caught up in the serious side of Christmas.? Robbie Thomas takes on this role with a level of confidence that commands the stage (even if he is surrounded by bubbles, stuffed animals, letters to Santa and a giant bright tree).? From street clothes to tights, Robbie takes you into his world.? He exposes you to the underbelly of the Santa retail world and narrates a story of yuletide splendor.
Sometimes you need to let tradition rest for a moment nestled in a stocking.? Take a day away from the Nutcracker and White Christmas and chuckle your way through the holiday with ‘Santaland Diaries’ at the Woolfe Street Playhouse.? Believe me, once you get your credit card bill in January, you won’t be, so take advantage now.