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THEATER REVIEW
A biting look at ‘Santaland’
True confessions of an elf offers antidote to holiday overload in one-man show

  • David Yen stars in Santaland Diaries. (TIKA MOON)

Just in time for Christmas, the Crazy Elves troupe alias actor David Yen and director Argo Thompson offer a respite from holiday overkill.

Their no-frills, storefront production of Santaland Diaries, a biting satire on the commercialization of Christmas, provides a refreshing antidote to sugarplum poisoning.

Theres nothing like the hilarious true confessions of a former Santas helper recalling his days at a major department store to ease the stress of seasonal shopping.

Yen, starring as the smirking Crumpet the Elf, strikes just the right balance between cynicism and sentiment in the current downtown run of this comic and often bittersweet one-man show.

Clad in ridiculous candy-striped leggings and an aggressively green tunic, Yen recounts anticipating a fluffy wonderland, but instead encountering endless bureaucracy, behind-the-scenes conflict and a hostile public. Even the little kids have issues.

Offered a multiracial range of St. Nicks to choose from, one mother apparently under the impression that shes being discreet softly suggests that her family would rather not have a chocolate Santa this year.

An exceptionally cute elf named Snowball prompts a round of rather competitive gay flirting among the seasonal hires.

And a visit from a group of severely disabled children points out the painfully problematic etiquette of asking a tragically disfigured kid what he wants for Christmas.

Part of what makes the show so compelling is that its based on fact.

When writer David Sedaris first arrived in New York City some 15 years ago, hoping for a dramatic role on a daytime TV soap opera, he soon found himself desperate for any job he could get.

He chose working as an elf in the Manhattan Macys Santaland to avoid the only alternative seasonal sidewalk promotions. (It breaks my heart to see a grown man dressed as a taco, Sedaris later wrote.)

Santaland Diaries, the authors comic memoir of his stint as an elf, aired in 1992 on National Public Radio, and was later adapted as a one-man stage show by Joe Mantello.

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