The Santaland Diaries
Lennie Watts, whose unforgettable performance as Man in Chair in Theater By The Sea’s 2011 production of "The Drowsy Chaperone" is still fresh in my memory, plays curmudgeon Crumpet the Elf in the one-man show, "The Santaland Diaries," at Ocean State Theatre Company.
Directed by Producing Artistic Director Amiee Turner, "The Santaland Diaries" is the darkly comic account of a 32-year-old man’s stint as a Christmas elf at Macy’s department store from renowned essayist and humorist, David Sedaris, adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello.
Throughout the show’s brief 60-minute running time, Crumpet provides painstaking behind-the-scenes detail of the trials and tribulations of his seasonal assignment, starting with the events leading up to how he became aware of this destined opportunity and the arduous training process of becoming a Macy’s elf.
What follows is a veritable hodgepodge of anecdotes that calls attention to everything from unruly customers and failed crowd control efforts, to the ludicrous disposition of his fellow elves and the unbearably flagrant audacity of the store’s floor managers.
There’s no denying that the former elf’s litany is peppered with its share of howl-out-loud hilarity, but as a performance piece, the end result is more sullen than celebratory. This is an especially challenging work, and while I applaud Watts for his deadpan delivery, his Crumpet comes across as having been scarred by the experience, rather than jokingly and sarcastically reflecting on the blatant absurdity of it.
"The Santaland Diaries" is tailor-made for those seeking an alternative or escape from the sentimental holiday showcases of cute costumes and carols, combining the brilliant, brutally honest writing of David Sedaris with Watt’s understated portrayal of an exasperated elf.
"The Santaland Diaries" continues through Dec. 30 at Ocean State Theatre Company, 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI. For info or tickets, call 401-921-6800 or visit Ocean State Theatre Company’s website.