Despite the clichéd, eye-roll-inducing notion of creative work that makes you laugh and makes you cry, David Sedaris’ essays are nearly universally adored because they regularly, miraculously achieve just that.
This has become particularly true in recent years as Sedaris has explored, with bracing candor, the painful aftermath of a sister’s suicide and grappled with his complicated relationship with his aging, politically conservative father.
Yes, Sedaris and his craft have both come a long way since his hilarious, breakout 1992 radio essay “The Santaland Diaries” — chronicling Sedaris’ work experience as a Macy’s elf in New York City during the holidays — premiered on NPR’s Morning Edition. It’s since become a kind of subversive holiday classic, up to and including a one-man stage adaptation by Joe Mantello that’s now being produced (in Ypsilanti) by Kickshaw Theatre.
In The Santaland Diaries stage production, Sedaris (Yianni Papadimos) tells the story of being an aspiring young actor in New York, with big dreams of getting work on his favorite soap opera, One Life to Live. After three weeks, when nothing even close to that pans out, he answers a quirky newspaper want ad for Macy’s elves. He goes through multiple job interviews; sits through an inevitably absurd elf-training class; gives himself the elf-name Crumpet; and then finally, he works at different stations — with a broad array of Santas and fellow elves — within a department store’s seasonal, snow-globe world.
I’ve seen a few productions of Santaland Diaries now, and it’s always interesting to observe how different actors, of varying physical builds and backgrounds, re-shape Crumpet a bit in their own image. Papadimos, with his dark beard and burly build, looks all the more absurd in his green velvet jumper, candy-cane tights, and a jester-like red hat. And when Crumpet’s frustration threatens to reach its boiling point, or he’s particularly sharp-tongued, there’s a hint of real menace behind the words. READ THE REST HERE