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The Santaland Diaries and Season's Greetings

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David Sedaris' witheringly comic monologue "The Santaland Diaries" first aired on National Public Radio in 1992, launching his career as an author and humorist. Off the Wall Theater pairs a stage version of "Santaland" with another Sedaris piece, "Season's Greetings," for a change-of-pace Christmas merriment devoid of saccharine.

Both monologues were adapted for the stage as one-acts by Joe Mantello. "Season's Greetings" opens the front doors of the modest suburban home of the Dunbars. Virginia Wall Gruenert portrays Mrs. Jocelyn Dunbar, an average housewife with a seemingly perfect life recently pockmarked by a few additions to the family: a crack-addicted grandchild born to her drug-addicted daughter, and a 22-year-old, mini-skirted Vietnamese stepdaughter, Khe Sahn.

Mrs. Dunbar recounts these recent developments with a warm Midwestern accent and an acerbic tongue while she polishes off a bottle of Jack Daniels. As directed by Linda Haston, the result is full of firecrackers. Gruenert's comedic timing and command of the stage are evident when she brandishes an iron poker at a Christmas teddy bear, sitting in for Khe Sahn, and recounts her warning to stay away from her son: "HE'S NOT FOR YOU!"

"Santaland Diaries" relates Sedaris' experience as a newcomer to New York. David, played by Stephen Santa (yes, his actual name), explains that while he moved to the Big Apple aspiring to rub elbows with the cast of his favorite soap opera, One Life to Live, he quickly realized that life in New York was not that glamorous. Desperate, he takes a job as an elf, named Crumpet, in Macy's Santaland. Suited in a green velvet smock, yellow turtleneck, candy-striped tights and green elfin hat, he proceeds to have multiple run-ins with impatient parents and sugarplum-headed children.

Directed by Michael Moats, the show is delivered in Sedaris' trademark style. Stephen Santa's sardonic wit, charm and surprising energy propel Crumpet as he leads the audience in a Santa cheer followed by a comical techno-dance number. The Christmas season, however, drags on and he becomes embittered by the endless stream of stressed-out parents and bratty children. When a mother threatens, "I'm going to have you fired," David matter-of-factly admits his urge to retort, "I'm going to have you killed." The season's broken promises and failed dreams, it seems, have won until David is struck by the true meaning of Christmas.

This two-part Off The Wall production offers a hilariously twisted glimpse at holidays' trials.

 

"The Santaland Diaries" and "Season's Greetings" continues through Dec. 28. Off The Wall Theater, 147 N. Main St., Washington, Pa. 724-873-3576 or www.insideoffthewall.com.

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