Seventeen years ago, David Sedaris made his debut on National Public Radio with
The Santaland Diaries
, a ridiculously sublime account of his tenure as a Macy's holiday elf. Since then, he has released seven collections of stories and essays (several of them best-sellers), won a Grammy Award, and influenced a generation of humorists with deadpan, wickedly funny observations about his fellow humans. But
has proved the most enduring of all his work, as evidenced by Flashpoint Theatre, which is producing its sixth consecutive iteration of the staged version.
Adapted in 1996 by actor Joe Mantello, the one-man piece is a natural fit for small companies looking to fill their December slot with a sure thing. Everyone loves Sedaris, and since his work has a broader, cooler appeal than the usual fare (is there any other holiday show that qualifies as cool? I sure can't think of one), yet still retains something of the season's spirit, it's no surprise that it crops up everywhere, every year.
Donning velvet tights for the fifth time as elf Crumpet, Derick Loafmann has, by now, internalized the piece's rhythms. Director Meghann Williams probably didn't have to do much more than plot his course and let him go. And go he does, seemingly on autopilot. This isn't to say the production is dull, but neither is it a thrill, which is OK, I guess, since Crumpet, early on, declares his plan to be a decidedly "low-key elf."
Williams emphasizes the story's warmth over its more wintry themes, conveying a sense of marvel at the city's sudden proximity and possibilities (Sedaris arrived in New York only three weeks before signing on at Macy's). And Loafmann evokes the mayhem of his particular corner of holiday hell (after a while, Sedaris begins to "envision a Satanland"). Every parental rebuke and crusty Santa gets its own voice, and Loafmann's Billie Holiday impression might just be a hair better than Sedaris' own.
Clocking in at a zippy hour, The Santaland Diaries offers a break from all the shopping and stressing that accompany this harried time of year. And anyway, as Crumpet could tell you, there's nothing like watching a man in pointy shoes and a bell-tipped hat to help you remember that there are others out there who have it so much worse.
The Santaland Diaries
Presented by Flashpoint Theatre Company
at the Adrienne Theatre, 2030 Sansom St.
Through Dec. 20. Tickets $5 to $18. Information: 215-665-9720 or www.FlashpointTheatre.org.