Wednesday, December 24, 2008

American Shakespeare Center: Santaland Diaries

Last year was the first year I saw David Sedaris's The Santaland Diaries at the American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriars Playhouse. It was great (Paul Fidalgo played Crumpet the Elf last year) and so I was looking forward to seeing again this year. This irreverent one-man show is a nice complement to the more traditional A Christmas Carol, and I'm not sure I could stand to see one without the other! Since I only got back to town Monday, I saw the Dickens on Tuesday and the Sedaris tonight. (This year two actors played Crumpet--John Harrell took the first half of the run and Chris Seiler took the second; I would like to have seen both because they're very different actors, but I wasn't back in time to see Harrell.)

The show is terrifically funny and raunchy and politically incorrect, all Sedaris specialties. Seiler did an excellent job of keeping the monologue moving and varied in tone. (You have to let the audience breathe from time to time.) The story, for those who don't know, is that Sedaris has recently arrived in New York and hopes to land a job on a soap opera, but in the meantime stoops to working as an elf in Macy's Santaland. From the interview to the costume to the demeaning work, there's humor in everything, until Crumpet (the "elf name" Sedaris assumes) looks like he'll learn the spirit of Christmas. Almost. As with other shows performed by ASC, this one incorporates the audience to certain extent and Seiler is very good at that in the intimate space. If you have a chance to see the show--it's playing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 5pm.

I may go back to see it again, not because of Seiler/Sedaris (as good as the performance is), but because of the pre-show music provided by Chris Johnston and Alisa Ledyard. They start about a half hour before the show, so I missed nearly half of their performance, and they're both terrific musicians, which I already knew. (Alisa was an apprentice during the Piercing Eloquence tour last year and I heard her wonderful singing voice then; Chris has been around a bit longer and is very talented musically.) Another thing that was a nice surprise about the performance--that I don't suppose will be repeated--is that the rest of the touring company was seated in the audience in the row in front of me. So most of the actors in A Christmas Carol (and all from Hamlet, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead, and Comedy of Errors) were there.

Anyway, check out the two shows in the Winter Season. There's still time!

2 comments:

Aimee "The Great" said...

I love this play, it's become a family tradition of ours to go and see it every year. I am partial to Harrell's portrayal of Crumpet. He is just marvelous.

Clifford Garstang said...

Yes, John is great as Crumpet. I missed it this year, unfortunately, and I hear that he's not planning to do it next year.