Christmas can be a time of goodwill but also a living hell as perceived by Crumpet, the Macy’s department store elf at his wits end in David Sedaris’ humorous if thin holiday comedy “The Santaland Diaries” based on his 1992 essay made famous on National Public Radio.
Presented as a season extra by the Human Race Theatre Company and adapted as a one-act, one-man play in 1996 by Joe Mantello, “Santaland Diaries” admirably thrives on Crumpet’s naughty, grumpy perspective as a 33-year-old slacker on the verge of reaching rock bottom. “I was $40 away from walking dogs,” he admits before launching into a series of comical and occasionally jaw-dropping misadventures as one of Santa’s busy helpers. Inside the hustle and bustle of Santaland, Crumpet eventually became a whiz at vomit duty and guaranteeing an African-American Santa upon request among other quirky responsibilities.
Under the personable direction of Race resident artist Scott Stoney, ensuring the script and scenes flow conversationally and with as much intimacy as possible, Race resident artist Tim Lile (amusingly costumed in gaudy garb by Christie Peitzmeier) exudes delightful exasperation. Lile has always been one of the Race’s funniest actors (he’s particularly comfortable in farce) and his comedic timing is greatly beneficial once again. One of his strongest moments involves Crumpet’s hilarious description of elf training including the use of sign language. And even when the script grows offensive or settles too long in off-kilter language, his delivery is so funny it’s easy to forgive the stinging barbs. In spite of a few moments of uncertainty on opening night when he called for a line, Lile is nonetheless in sync with Crumpet’s irritable aura and certainly fills the Loft stage. Granted, Stoney could have brought the action and set nearer downstage, but his decision isn’t a detriment considering the appeal of scenic designer Scott J. Kimmins’ colorful, retail-inspired winter wonderland complete with oversize throne chair.
“Santaland Diaries” may leave you wanting more but it’s an entertaining and welcomed respite from traditional holiday fare.
“The Santaland Diaries” continues through Dec. 19 in the Loft Theatre of the Metropolitan Arts Center, 126 N. Main St., Dayton. Performances are 7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 5 and 9 p.m. Saturday. The play is performed in one hour without intermission. Tickets are $24. For tickets or more information, call (937) 228-3630 or visit www.humanracetheatre.org or ticketcenterstage.com.