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The miserable elf: BPA presents ‘The SantaLand Diaries’
By ERIN JENNINGS
Special to What's Up
Some are more jolly than others: department store Santas.
As children, we may have visited a Santa Claus who looked so real that we eagerly whispered our Christmas wishes in his ear.
Or maybe for the sake of a photo op, we were forced atop a Santa whose beard was askew and whose breath smelled like grandpa’s ashtray.
Maybe we were so afraid we couldn’t even step into the polyester-snow Wonderland – images, good or bad, that we still carry.
“You cannot say you haven’t walked by a Santa and said, ‘Oh. That one looks like a drinker,’ or ‘I wouldn’t let that one around children,’” joked Steven Fogell, artistic director for Bainbridge Performing Arts.
Fogell directs “The SantaLand Diaries,” a sardonic and humorous one-man show based on the true-to-life story by national best-selling humorist David Sedaris.
First read on National Public Radio in 1992 and later adapted for the stage, Sedaris’ work exposes what life is like behind the door marked “Holiday Personnel Only.”
Working as Crumpet the Elf in a New York City Macy’s, Sedaris found himself on the other side of the holidays – the darker and less pleasant side.
For some of Sedaris’ coworkers, playing a part in the temporary North Pole was the highlight of their lives. These overzealous elves bounced through SantaLand with an exclamation point at the end of each sentence.
Sedaris did not fall into this category.
“It makes one’s mouth hurt to speak with such forced merriment,” he wrote.
But he swallowed his pride and donned the elf costume to help pay the rent.
When a particularly grumpy customer threatened to have Sedaris fired, he responded, “Go ahead and be my guest. I’m wearing a green velvet costume. It doesn’t get any worse than this.”
C ast to wear the elf costume this season is Tim Davidson, a familiar actor on the BPA stage.
“SantaLand,” at 25 pages, is the longest monologue he has performed. He’s worked his way through section by section since June, knitting the pieces together like a holiday scarf.
Davidson enjoys the humanity in the play and how Sedaris made the characters recognizable.
“He doesn’t just make fun of people,” Davidson said, “but he endears them to us” – familiar characters like stressed-out parents, frightened children, and Santas who take themselves too seriously.
And although he hasn’t had the pleasure of working as an elf, he can relate to the character. Much like Sedaris, Davidson has a knack for finding funny nuances in people – although, he admits, “I tend to make fun of people in my mind.”
“The SantaLand Diaries” adds another option to a holiday stage lineup traditionally filled with “A Christmas Carol” and “The Nutcracker.” Davidson thinks this performance will appeal to viewers who don’t want a predictable version of the holidays, but rather a humorous and honest one.
“The SantaLand Diaries” combines two highly emotional experiences: a miserable job, and the stress of the holiday season. Who doesn’t relate?
“Everybody has had a job that they wouldn’t even want to share with their best friend,” Fogell said.
Sedaris, thankfully, chose to share his elven experience with the world.
“The SantaLand Diaries” will appear one night only – at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. at Bainbridge Performing Arts.
The evening’s second act will be “Christmas Cabaret,” featuring holiday songs with a sexy twist. Burlesque dancer Miss Holli Von Vixen will be the hostess for the evening.
The cabaret ensemble includes Tim Davidson and recent “Rocky Horror Show” cast members Tryg Littlefield, Alison Hanford and Eon Smith.
Tickets are $20 per person and are available at (206) 842-8569 or online at www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org. Due to mature themes, the evening is suitable for “PG-13” audiences.