The Santaland Diaries hilariously exposes the ugly underbelly of the holiday season | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Review

The Santaland Diaries hilariously exposes the ugly underbelly of the holiday season

Though maybe the script could stand a few updates.

by

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

comment

The Santaland Diaries at the Goodman is a hilarious adult romp through the holiday season. This one-man show, adapted by Joe Mantello from David Sedaris's 1992 This American Life essay, delivers an uncensored tour through the dark heart of retail, told through the eyes of Crumpet, one of Santa's elves at Macy's. This show offers desperately needed catharsis: someone finally admits that maybe the dog-and-pony show we call Christmas isn't really for the kids after all.

Actor Matt Crowle possesses an easygoing scruffy, yet impishly charming persona that plays like a best friend dishing hot gossip after work as he delivers a long string of anecdotes about the terrible behavior of ridiculous parents, crazed shoppers, and a less-than-ideal Santa Claus. He keeps the laughs coming—and he'll make you thank your lucky stars for your nonretail day job.

The story of an affable loser is evergreen no matter the era, and most of the decades-old references still work well comedically, funny now for their glorified irrelevance. Like many older productions, though, a few lines in the script have unintentionally traded their comedic weight for dramatic over the years. One antiquated reference to mentally handicapped people, for instance, landed like the proverbial turd in an otherwise tasty punchbowl; it was 15 minutes before Crowle regained the trust of the audience. Fortunately, he was able to turn things around, no small feat when one is the only person on stage.   v

Add a comment