REVIEW: THE SANTALAND DIARIES at the Denver Center Center

by Edwin Lobach

Yes, all, it’s that time. Christ is born and with him came the murdering of pines accessorized in our living rooms with lights and beads, and cheery music about the cold, dead weather and unrealistic ideals. If you haven’t realized yet, let this be a reminder to go and get your most conceited loved one a present, because it’s Christmas season. Bless. We’ve seen A Christmas Story, Christmas Carol, Nutcracker, what have you, and we call them back every year, but another that’s been around for more than two decades and demanding more attention is The Santaland Diaries.

First written as a personal essay by David Sedaris, The Santaland Diaries was initially introduced and read on NPR in the early nineties, and then in 1996 Joe Mantello adapted it as a one-man play. Simply, this holiday farce is the comical account of Sedaris’ stint working as a reluctant Christmas Elf at a Macy’s store in the big city. I mean, c’mon. What better plot can you ask for in a holiday season comedy?

And comedy is precisely what it is. Might even call it an adults-only Macy’s Christmas roast, but, it’s not any old roast that you could get at a comedy venue. No, Off-Center of the DCPA and Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company brought their talent and lit the stage up for such a small one-act play. First off, our Santaland, dreamed up by scenic design Nicholas Renaud, is as merry and magical as any out there, filling the audience again with hope that they might get their Christmas bonuses. Next, as David was rather up and down and left and right of stage, I found the lighting rather intricate (Lily Bradford), with additional note to her special effects including the black lighting for a particularly special surprise to the keen observer. Although it’s only a one-man show, there were enough toots and whistles, so to speak, to really fill in the gaps. Sound design Andrew Metzroth really sold half the jokes from his overdramatic themes to the light-hearted ditties which captured flawlessly the hilarity of David’s situation.

Speaking of David, actor Michael Bouchard stole the show. Yes, he stole his own show. Like, he was so funny, even often times improvisational, that the audience around me were laughing with such abandon that I found them distracting, but I couldn’t care as I too was laughing heartily throughout. I even felt envious of Bouchard. You could see that he was having an even better time than the rest of us, but he spread his sarcastic Christmas joy through his humor and acting, leaving us with tears in our creased,smiling eyes.

All said, though, I can easily see this short 90-minute production being underdone, as the script carries a lot of the weight, but not with these guys. No, stage manager Malia Stoner and director Stephen Weitz really deserve utmost credit for pulling together such an elaborate Christmas show for all to see. I’m still laughing days later and I hope to see The Santaland Diaries back in Denver next year. Or, you know, when the lot of us are upset that it’s Christmas season again, it’d be reassuring to know we’re not the only ones with so little enthusiasm.

The Santaland Diaries is roasting Christmas consumerism now until Christmas Eve. You can find tickets or other information by calling the Denver Center Box Office, 303-893-4100, or by visiting www.denvercenter.org.

 

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