The Santaland Diaries – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

If your rent is due and you may soon be evicted, and if there are no paying jobs for actors on the horizon, you might be desperate enough to answer a want ad for a Christmas elf. This isn’t just any old holiday elf, this is an elf at Macy’s Herald Square in New York City. Okay, it still sucks. But if your name is David Sedaris, and you’re a comedian of the first order, you may be able to transform the humiliation into a prize winning one man show that may still embarrass you decades later. David Sedaris found himself in just such a state after landing in New York to make his fame and fortune on the stage. He has memorialized the experience in “The Santaland Diaries” playing with jolly holly fun at West Hartford’s Playhouse on Park until Saturday, December 21.

While the out -of- work actor had some standards, (he would not be a French fry or hot dog or taco standing on the street corner handing out leaflets), he found himself willing to consider an ad for a Christmas elf at Macy’s Department Store, especially after his roommate dared him to apply. At thirty-three years of age, his biggest fear was that he wouldn’t be hired.

Enter Sam Massaro as Crumpet the reluctant elf who endured the indignities of the application process and then found himself clad in red, white and green from his sparkling cap to his curled velvet toes, complete with candy cane leggings. As an elf with an attitude, he had many career opportunities, from entrance to exit elf, bridge elf, runner elf, magic window or magic tree elf, photo or island elf. Wherever he landed, he had to deal with grumpy parents and crying children and impossible to please bosses, not to mention fellow elves named Snowball, Gingerbread, Jingle and even Dreidel.

Massaro is alternately philosophical and sarcastic about his seasonal stint with Santa, and the task of being “relentlessly cheerful” and permanently merry only gives him a headache. His goal of being elected to the Elfin Hall of Fame is probably a lost cause. Yet late on Christmas Eve, the skeptical Crumpet finds himself in the presence of a Kris Kringle who gives him pause and actually a new perspective on the true meaning of the holiday. Sean Harris directs this Christmas tale that is definitely different in its spirit of looking behind the candy canes for what is lurking in the red and green shadows ready to pounce.

For tickets ($25), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10 or online at www.playhouseonpark.org. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Remember to bring an unwrapped toy for a needy child by December 16th. Also playing is “Merrilee Mannerly,” a delightful musical for children, Wednesday at 10 a.m. and 2:30p.m., Saturday at 10 a.m., 1p.m.and 4 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.until December 15.

Lace your eggnog with a splash of rum and let one silly and sarcastic and cynical elf bring you some unbridled Christmas cheer.

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