Crumpet and tee-hee-hee

The Santaland Diaries

Tinsel, teddy bears and … tequila?

Tinsel, teddy bears and … tequila?

Photo by Kevin Adamski

The Santaland Diaries, 7 p.m. Wednesday; 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday; $24-$36. Capital Stage, 2215 J Street; (916) 995-5464; Through December 29.
Rated 5.0

David Sedaris is a wickedly funny writer, and The Santaland Diaries—a play based on his essay about a Christmas season spent working as an elf at Macy’s Herald Square—is devilishly dishy, dizzying and ultimately unsettling. As stories of holiday hells go, it is hilarious. Janis Stevens directs the satiric comedy which was adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello and stars Aaron Wilton as Crumpet the elf.

In New York for only three weeks but unemployed since his dream of waltzing into a role on his favorite television soap opera (One Life to Live) was not to be realized, Sedaris was reduced to applying for a job as one of Santa’s elves in the Macy’s Christmas display. At first, the experience was merely humbling and humiliating, and he could grin and bear it. But the holiday crunch soon began to crush his spirit, and he sometimes took out his frustrations on the children and parents who poured through Santaland. It wasn’t long before Crumpet realized that “Santa” is an anagram of “Satan” and imagined a Satanland where “visitors would wade through steaming pools of human blood and feces before arriving at the Gates of Hell.”

Sometimes, his days at Santaland resembled Satanland, with children urinating on potted plants rather than losing their place in line, and parents changing diapers there and tossing soiled Pampers into the “forest.” No wonder he might tell a tantrum-throwing child that not only would Santa not bring him the toys he requested, but “If you’re bad, he comes to your house and steals things.”

All this outrageousness (with plenty of mature language and themes) is delivered by Wilton as the best surrogate Sedaris one can imagine. He convinces that this is all based on actual experience, which it is. Director Stevens rightly accentuates the outlandish humor of Sedaris’ piece, but she makes room, too, for his cogent commentary on the insanity and incivility humans and corporations can inflict on otherwise innocent targets. Even in this Season of Peace.