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The Santaland Diaries



The Santaland Diaries, Roadworks Productions, at the Chopin Theatre. No one can read David Sedaris's witty, bitchy, literate prose as well as he does, with just the right sugarcoated sneer. But Lance Stuart Baker, delivering Sedaris's autobiographical account of working as an elf at Macy's, comes very close. This is the third time in six years that Baker's performed Joe Mantello's adaptation, and he's got all the Sedaris vocal mannerisms down cold--the put-upon whine, the devastating, slightly campy aside. Creating a compelling facsimile of the writer-performer, Baker could tour America with a one-man show based on the life and opinions of Sedaris if Sedaris weren't currently doing that himself.

Cyndi Rhoads only sometimes gets the rhythms right in Sedaris's other holiday short story on this program, "Season's Greetings." I suspect the secret to interpreting this bitter comic gem--a twisted Christmas letter from a middle-class housewife whose life falls apart when her husband's illegitimate daughter appears on the scene--is to channel Amy Sedaris. Certainly it's Amy, not David, who's made a career out of playing half-crazy women trying desperately to appear normal. Rhoads captures the character's fussy suburban conventionality but little of the madness just below the surface of her forced smile, and as a result Sedaris's story is only half as funny as it could be.

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