By David Sedaris
Adapted by Joe Mantello
Directed by Jeremy Wechsler
At Theater Wit, Chicago
All I want for Christmas is a really good orgasm
The Santaland Diaries have become a tradition in this town. And thank god. Because there is only so much holiday cheer one can stomach, only so much crass consumerism and cynical, sappy marketing dressed in the guise of yuletide joie one can stand before one craves the horrific, seedy underbelly of the holiday that created things like Bad Santa and this. And somewhere on that spectrum lies David Sedaris’ Santaland Diaries, an ode to all that is wrong with Christmas.
And Mitchell Fain does a splendid job with it. He embodies the disaffected, despairing character of Sedaris’ story. It’s a wonderful adaptation of the writer’s well-documented acerbic wit delivered whole-heartedly. And it’s not just, you know, a reading, or something. First of all, Fain keeps it fresh with updates to the references (OWS, anyone? – a very apt reference, indeed) as well as a healthy sprinkling of improv. So every night will be different.
What’s interesting is the effects of transporting the written story to the stage: David Sedaris wrote this tale as at least semi-autobiographical; but as such, we never learn the main character’s actual name, in a way: he is reduced only to Crumpet, the crotchety elf. He’s suddenly defined even more by this role, which he takes in a move of desperation looking for a job while out of work. And there’s movement in costume as well as set. The lighting and sound cues are so subtle as not to really be noticed – which is exactly their goal – but enhance the monologue smoothly. And there is, of course, toward the end of the piece, the gigantic snow-jism that covers Crumpet. Frankly, I’m not sure what else to say: it’s a fantastic piece of theatre, a blessed reprieve that one enjoys unabashedly.
Reviewed on 11.25.11
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL, call 773-975-8150, www.theaterwit.org, tickets $35, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 & (;30 pm, Sundays at 3 & 7 pm, running time is 75 minutes without intermission, through December 31, 2011