The holiday season is in full swing. It’s a time for family traditions and good cheer. One of the most treasured traditions is the appearance of Santa in department stores and shopping malls. Here children get the chance to meet him in person and ask for something special. It’s a magical moment for kids.
I lived in Chicago, I remember being taken to see the Marshall Field’s
Santa. I was excited and could not wait for the moment to see him. My
parents were not thrilled when they saw the long lines, but they
Macy’s store in New York City is possibility the most famous location
for kids to visit him. The tradition has been going on for a long time
and was famously chronicled in the movie, “Miracle On 34th Street.” Even
though I have seen the movie many times, I still find it to be a
special Christmas movie.
imagine we assume that all the Santas and helpers are having a great
time. Presumably they are upbeat and full of merriment. That may be
true, but a different picture is cast in David Sedaris’ “The Santaland
Diaries,” a hilarious play currently running at Third Avenue Playhouse
in Sturgeon Bay.
character portrayed by Dan Klarer is autobiographical. The show
portrays what Sedaris had to do during very lean times, when he first
came to New York and was out of work looking for a job — any job.
calls his character by his first name, David. He becomes one of the
elves at the New York Macy’s store and goes by the name “Crumpet.” Some
of his fellow elves call themselves Snowball, Flakey, Walrus and Sleigh
Bells. Their job was to greet the children and parents. They were there
to help make the experience fun and enjoyable for everyone.
we find out in this show is that there is a downside to being one of
Santa’s helpers. We hear about the unruly kids he has to deal with.
There are also nasty parents who are bored, in a rush, and are either
yelling or slapping their children. It’s not a pretty picture.
depicts various situations that he remembers quite well. He uses dolls
and stuffed animals through which he tells his sad but funny stories.
While he is doing this, he also tells the audience about his fellow
elves. He finds some of them intolerable to work with. Some are a little
crazy. One asks the people at Macy’s if he could work as an elf
As the play progresses David becomes more jaded. He finds the
situation barely tolerable. Everything seems so chaotic and not like
Christmas should be. He wonders if he can stick it out. Some of the
other elves start calling in sick or just stop showing up. Even though
he starts drinking, David hangs in and deals with it. He needs the
All this goes on for most of the
show, and there is a sudden shift at the end. David comes across a Santa
who deals with Christmas differently.
Santa is less focused on gifts and toys and tries to instill in those
he meets a sense of love and warmth for each other. This Santa tells
people that the holiday is not about what we get but how we treat each
other. The elf is very moved by this Santa. He is struck by his humanity
and genuine care for others.
Klarer is wonderful in this one-man show. He brings a special element
of hilarity to the part. He is a joy to watch and makes the most of the
loved how he seemed to understand his character’s frustration and
cynical nature. Yet, I was also very moved by Klarer at the end. In that
moment he showed what a superb actor he is. Appropriately so, the
show’s director, Robert Boles, told me Klarer is one of the best actors
he has worked with. No truer words were spoken.
must also give credit to James Valcq, who designed the set. When you
walk into the theater, you immediately see a bizarre arrangement of
toys, stuffed animals, blow-up dolls, plastic figurines, Christmas
lights, a fake fireplace and much more. The set adds to the hilarity of
show contains some adult language and references that might be
inappropriate for more sensitive viewers. The show is not appropriate
Santaland Diaries runs at 2, 4 and 7:30 p.m. selected Thursdays, Fridays
and Saturdays at Third Avenue Playhouse, 239 N. Third Ave., Sturgeon
Bay. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $10 for students. For tickets or
specific show times and dates, call (920) 743-1760. online article