When you find a good bet, particularly at the box office, keep wagering - that's what Flashpoint Theatre Company is doing for the seventh holiday season, in what has become Center City's annual production of The Santaland Diaries.
If you're going to pick a perennial Christmas show to stage, David Sedaris' wonderfully sharp look at the holiday season - seen through his own eyes, working as an elf at the original Macy's in New York - has many pluses.
First, it's great fun, this piece that launched Sedaris' career as a writer when he read it on NPR's Morning Edition in 1992. Sedaris has gone on to become one of the nation's leading humorists; my guess is, with Santaland Diaries as a popular holiday stage adaptation by actor Joe Mantello, Sedaris laughs each Christmas as he enters the on-line password to his bank account.
Second, aside from the chuckles the show induces, it has its serious side. If it weren't for Sedaris, all we'd have is the look at the Santas and their helpers that comes with the film - and during this holiday season, the new Broadway musical - Elf. And while that's fun, it's not nearly as revealing as Sedaris' own real elfdom and his treatment (as Crumpet, his Macy's elf name) at the hands of a not-always-adoring shopping public.
Flashpoint is calling this production "a fresh take" in its promotions for the show, because it's newly directed by Noah Herman. I can't tell you whether that's made a difference - this is the first time I've seen the company's production - but I can't see that much could happen differently in the show, a one-man affair that calls for little in the way of stagecraft buzz.
That said, Slim Jenkins' design of holiday sounds is a nice touch. Derick Loafmann plays Sedaris - or, Crumpet - in a way that shoves aside some of the writer's trademark wryness for a more theatrical delivery.
That is not a complaint; Loafmann, who is doing this for the sixth holiday season, has a clear notion of the storytelling involved, and he is both endearing and vulnerable as he goes about his business shepherding unseen parents and children along the lengthy waiting lines, or introducing the kids to Santa, or working with umpteen Santas who each demand something different from their helpers. In Loafmann's telling, this is much less a war of nerves than in Sedaris' own reading; it's more about how people assume their own holiday roles, whether it's in Santa's outfit or on his lap. And that, in the end, is a merry delivery.
David Sedaris fans, take note: Three local actors known for, among many things, their jollity - Scott Greer, Tony Braithwaite, and Pete Pryor - will read from Sedaris' collection Holidays on Ice in a one-night stand at Plays & Players Theatre, at 7:30 p.m. Monday, under the auspices of 1812 Productions.
The Santaland Diaries
Presented by Flashpoint Theatre at the Adrienne's Second Stage, 2030 Sansom St., through Dec. 19. Tickets: $18-$20. Information: 215-665-9720 or www.flashpointtheatre.org. EndText