BWW Review: THE SANTALAND DIARIES at Playhouse On Park
The holidays are a season of excitement and joy for people of all ages. This festive time of year comes with all the trappings - colorful decorations, gifts for loves ones, and of course, visits to see the big man in the red suit. But have you ever stopped to wonder what the lives of those who toil day after joyous day in green velvet and striped stockings? Yes, I am talking about Santa's helpers, the energetic and excited elves who ensure your visit to the North Pole is as wonderful as it can be. In David Sedaris' one man play, THE SANTALAND DIARIES, playing now at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, audiences get a peek through the "magic window" at one man's hilarious experience as an elf in Macy's Santaland.
THE SANTALAND DIARIES, based on David Sedaris' essay of the same name, and adapted by Joe Mantello, shares the author's own experience working as an elf in Santaland at a time before online shopping, when the only way to get presents for the season was to head out to the department store. The singular character, David (or, by his elf name, Crumpet) walks the audience through his experiences being hired, trained, and through the holiday season as a new elf. The job comes with long hours trying to be as cheerful as possible, which can prove quite challenging for a cynical and dry witted person such as David. Through an extended monologue (70 minutes, no intermission) David introduces the cast of misfits he calls co-workers, and recounts some of the horror stories (and genuinely touching ones too) of dealing with stressed out families and over-excited children in the magical "Santaland". David survives (and goes on to be a best selling author, of course) but not without infusing his odd sense of humor and outlook on the world to those he encounters along the way.
As the begrudged, David, Sam Massaro does a good job expressing the highs and lows of the experience he shares during the play. His delivery is natural and realistic (not over the top with flamboyance that sometimes is the case with THE SANTALAND DIARIES) and he garners genuine laughs. His comic timing is good, and he interacts with the audience in a very organic way, adding to the experience of the evening. David Sedaris' script is funny regardless of the medium, but Mr. Massaro handles it well.
Sean Harris' direction is solid, using the full stage effectively, including having Mr. Massaro sit in the audience at times, and reset the small number of set pieces to add variety. Sarah Bolton's elf costume hits the right notes, and Johann Fitzpatrick's lighting adds to the experience, especially the well timed camera flashes during visits with Santa.
Overall, Playhouse on Park's THE SANTALAND DIARIES is a fun and festive night at the theatre that will certainly get you in the holiday spirit.
THE SANTALAND DIARIES runs at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford, CT through December 21st. For more information, call 860-523-5900 ext. 10 or visit www.PlayhouseOnPark.org. Playhouse on Park is located at 244 Park Road, West Hartford, CT 06119
Photo credit: Meredith Longo
Top Photo: Sam Massaro as David in THE SANTALAND DIARIES