Review: The Santaland Diaries

The Art’s Club revival of The Santaland Diaries is a campy, slightly offensive escapade of a one man show that will have you laughing, groaning and, eventually, laughing again. Through its main character–a gay man working as an elf in Macy’s “Santaland”–manages to twist a Christmas scenario into something that violates everything you associated with Christmas. Written by comedian and author David Sedaris, the play features Toby Berner as its eager protagonist. With only an 80 minute run (no intermission), Berner commands the stage almost completely on his own, aside from a brief cameo from Santa and a drunk co worker. He does this easily, interacting and joking with the audience to make them feel like they too are a part of the show- although occasionally, talking to real people forces him to break character instead of simply narrating the play.

He may have been pretty much the only one on stage, but he shared the spotlight with an impeccable crew and technical team. The set was a just a cluster of white blocks, but they were moved so quickly that they were able to form dozens of settings that Berner moved effortlessly between. Talk about a minimalist masterpiece.

Just add satanic headgear and you've got an accurate poster.
Just add satanic headgear and you’ve got an accurate poster.

This isn’t a Christmas show to take your grandmother to. The promotional photos should not be “Crumpet the Elf” wrapped in coloured lights, but wearing devil’s horns. Amidst all the festive music and showy exterior, one would not expect vignettes about abusive parents forcibly trying to sit their children on Santa’s lap, vicious disputes over which Santa is best and elfin discrimination and mockery: The Santaland Diaries shows what really happens in department store around the holidays.

The play’s strongest point is its marvelous script. It’s hilarious, concise, and carries the story along perfectly, although it bordered on being offensive or just downright rude at points. As the play heads due north to the politically incorrect, Toby Berner and director John Murphy keep the audience laughing while simultaneously making them almost wish they weren’t.

For those with a quirky, almost morbid sense of humour, or any delightful holiday cynics, The Santaland Diaries runs until Dec. 21.

For tickets or more information, head on over here.

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