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Theater review

Whitton shines in one-man ‘Santaland’

Saturday, December 15, 2012
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Theater review


It’s the time of year everyone attempts to get into the holiday spirit. For some of us, that entails going to see the lights in the park; for others, it’s seeing “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Palace. It’s the time of year for wishes and hopes and dreams and cheer.

Sometimes, though, you need a breather from all that relentless cheer. You need something a little more down-to-earth and something that will make you laugh (even if maybe you know you shouldn’t.) If it makes you think of the season, too, well, great — but maybe in not such a treacly-sweet way. Maybe that’s just what some of us need this time of year.

‘The Santaland Diaries’

WHERE: Home Made Theater, Spa Little Theater, Saratoga State Park

WHEN: Through December 16

HOW MUCH: $18

MORE INFO: 587-4427, www.homemadetheater.org

Home Made Theater’s “The Santaland Diaries” fits the bill.

Based on “New York Times” best-selling humorist David Sedaris’ essay, which was broadcast to popular acclaim on NPR’s “This American Life” in 1992, “The Santaland Diaries” tells the story of Sedaris’ season working as an elf at SantaLand at Macy’s in New York City. For an unemployed actor, it was an opportunity to bring in some cash — but as anyone who’s worked with the public, especially during the holiday season, knows, you EARN your paycheck working this type of job. Sedaris, with his sardonic style, was able to turn what would have been a throwaway anecdote to anyone else into a side-splitting piece of cultural commentary.

HMT’s production of “The Santaland Diaries” delivered spot-on Sedaris humor and enough dark holiday cheer to keep the audience laughing throughout. Jonathan Whitton (a Skidmore grad and past director at HMT) came onstage with energy to spare, and that energy didn’t flag, not once in the entire performance. He managed to capture Sedaris’ tone without doing a parody and was eminently watchable throughout.

A one-man show, if not done well, can be difficult to sit through, especially once you learn the actor’s tricks. Not so with Whitton. He was an utter joy to watch onstage. His antics never strayed into camp and he was equally enjoyable with every emotion in the piece — the bitter anger, the twisted sarcasm, the genuinely touching moments.

Adam Fitzgerald’s direction seems to have been to let Whitton take the stage — and take it he did. A one-man show is truly a collaboration between the actor and the director, and I have to believe that Whitton and Fitzgerald worked well together, as everything went seamlessly and flowed smoothly.

Kudos as well to Patty Pawliczak’s elf costume — with her help, those of us that have only imagined what Crumpet the Elf might have looked like all these years were finally able to see him, in all his jingle-belled, curled-toed-shoed glory. Oh, and what a glory it is.

The show only runs until this Sunday — if you need a break from the cheers and the bells, go see what a little holiday sarcasm and some heavy onstage drinking can do. Surprisingly, I think you’ll find yourself in more of the holiday spirit when you leave than you’d think.

 
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