Saturday, November 25, 2006

Santaland Diaries (Cleveland Public Theatre)

Cute, but not wonderful ‘SANTALAND DIARIES’ at CPT

Want a fun holiday job? How about working as one of Santa’s elfs in a major department store? Think of it this way: you’d be surrounded by lots of toys, be in a winter wonderland setting, listen to cute kids tell their wishes to a wise Santa, and hobnob with “the” man--the guy in the red suit.

When David Sedaris was 33-years old and desperate for a job while waiting for his big break in New York, he saw an ad for a Santa’s helper at Macy’s Department store. A perfect holiday job, he thought. Oh, how wrong he was.

Sedaris, who is a National Public Radio humorist and author of such delightful books as ‘NAKED’ and ‘ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY,’ delves into his own life for his stories. This is the case with ‘SANTALAND DIARIES,’ a story which is both humorous and sardonic. It can be viewed locally on stage at Cleveland Public Theatre.

Andrew Tarr, who portrays Sedaris in this one-person show, is quite entertaining. However, he misses that extra spark that is needed to get all the laughs out of the piece which includes comments about Santas, parents, kids and coworkers. The Santas run from the insane to the philosophical. He recounts tales of maniacal parents whose main goal in life is to get the “perfect” holiday picture and have their kids enjoy themselves even if the parent has to beat the kid into being the happy. The kids range from the pleasers to the “pee-ers.” Co-workers vary from the dwarf to the ditz who wants to be an elf “all year long.”

Director Mindy Childress Herman needed to work with Tarr on comic timing. Some of the necessary pauses, stresses and facial gyrations, which make for comedy, were not well-keyed. That is not to say Tarr isn’t entertaining. He is, but he could have been hysterical with the right guidance.

Capsule judgement: “SANTALAND DIARIES” is a creative piece which gets a pleasant production at Cleveland Public Theatre. P.S. It is not for the kids!