Theater Wit , in its new and cozy home on Belmont has brought back David Sedaris’ “The Santaland Diaries” ( adapted by Joe Mantello), a one man show starring the incredible Mitchell Fain as Crumpet the elf ( also known as David, the unemployed writer) and his exploits working at Macy’s in New York as one of Santa’s elves during the frantic and hectic days before Christmas. How ironic, this show should open on “Black Friday”, the start of the 2010 holiday season and how fitting many of the patrons who entered the sold out house were carrying in bags from many of our local stores.
This is a show for those who enjoy a good laugh at some of the holiday traditions. Much of what David/Crumpet talks about during his 79 minutes of reliving those days of yesteryear could be very real with some little comic touches added ( after all, he is a writer). We learn about “elf training”, the fierce competition to land one of these special jobs and of course watch and hear his “war stories” from the first day, when he dons his tights and green velvet costume until the last Day- Christmas Eve, when his job ends. As the days go on and Christmas gets closer, we see that his demeanor changes and his hate for the people and the Santas grows stronger as he becomes weary and tired with this make believe world he has entered.
Directed by Jeremy Wechsler, this return engagement is indeed a lot of laughs, but is not “family friendly” as there is no way that a youngster should watch or hear what Fain says, either the words scripted or his wonderful ad-libs as he plays off the audience. Throughout the performance, he sips from a large, or should I say huge, martini glass, so we, the audience can watch his attitude and his holiday spirit disappear as the days go by. Mike Durst does some clever lighting touches and Joey Wade’s set is simple but certainly sets the mood for a “Santaland”. The key to this production and its staying power is however, Mitchell Fain, who has the elfish look even before he changes to his costume and knows how to play to an audience. After all, he is telling us a story and he does so with great energy and feeling. If he did not tell us from the very get-go that he did not live this story himself, one might truly think that this was indeed a part of his life.
One of the nice things about Theater Wit is the intimacy of its theaters, no seat is obstructed and the audience can see the actors face, so we truly feel that Fain is speaking directly to us. In fact, on several occasions, he is! ( and the audience loves it!) As we near the end of the year and all the theaters are hitting us with “holiday cheer” and happy ending stories, it is nice to see something just a bit different, a play tht makes fun of the traditions, yet not offensive ( except for some four letter words, which a drinking crown seems to enjoy). Theater Wit has libations available to purchase and allows them into the theater, so here is an opportunity to have a drink with the actor as he tells his comical stories of the days before Christmas as Crumpet, the Elf.
“Santaland Diaries” will continue through December 31st and tickets range from $18-$30. For the complete schedule or to order tickets call the box office at 773-975-8150 or visit www.TheaterWit.org
The theater is located at 1229 West Belmont. There is street parking available and Coopers ( a great little restaurant directly accross the street) has free parking available.