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Sedaris’s ‘Santaland Diaries’ Comes to Theater West

By Hana Frenette

Christmas-time is almost upon us. With each passing day, we are exposed to more synthesized cheer and joy. Not to say that plenty of real cheer doesn’t exist on its own. It does, it’s simply trumped by the movies and the commercials played at warp speed from Thanksgiving until Christmas morning. True love materializes out of nowhere, grand gestures are made, and everyone gets exactly what they want.

If you’re feeling like a more realistic Christmas experience, or just want to laugh all your Christmas stress away, take a moment to check out Theater West’s production of the “Santaland Diaries,” originally written by best-selling humorist and NPR contributor David Sedaris.

The piece was originally read on NPR’s “Morning Edition” in 1992 and is a first person narrative of what it’s like to be an elf inside of a Macy’s Santaland in New York City.

The story offers hilarious accounts of angry elves, cocky Santas and the completely oblivious families and children that are encountered.

The play has been adapted to a one-man show by Tony winning actor and director Joe Mantello, with Theater West providing Paxton McCaghren as the lead.

“We’ll have two sets, one being his cramped studio apartment and the other being Macy’s Santaland,” McCaghren said. “We’re really trying to create the duality of being in his apartment and being at Macy’s.”

McCaughren is a professional actor, with a MFA in Theater from the University of New Orleans.

“I live here half the time, and then I’m over there for the rest,” McCaughren said. “There’s just so much theater work in Louisiana.”

The piece was chosen by the theater because of its distinct message, and the honest way in which it’s told.

“This guy has a slacker job beforehand, then he gets the Santaland job and really just starts realizing how commercialized Christmas has become and what we’ve really turned into as a society,” he said.

However, this isn’t an attack on commercialism and the greed of America. And it’s not a peace-pushing story about how everyone should love one another and hug instead of giving gifts. It’s a story that attempts to show us how funny everything really can be when it’s not being taken so seriously and its meaning has become so removed. The “Santlaland Diaries” somehow makes the flaws of humanity hilarious, in an endearing, charming kind of way.

Take your friends or family to see it and remind yourself that Christmas and the effect it has on people is funny. At least some of the time.

Also, keep in mind this play was intended for a mature audience. The realization that Santa isn’t real might be gathered in a general sort of way from attending a said performance.

SANTALAND DIARIES
WHEN: Dec. 14-16 and Dec. 21-23; 7:30 p.m. for Friday and Saturday shows, 3:30 p.m. for Sunday shows
WHERE: Theater West, 9732 Sydney Road
COST: $15
DETAILS: 912-4087, or email reservations@sanctuarytheaterwest.com