It was the monologue that launched a career. First heard on public radio in 1992, David Sedaris’ eight-minute Christmas memoir—a detail-filled recitation of humiliations suffered (and dished out) by the author during his stint as a Macy’s department-store elf—became an instant classic, and was later deemed worthy enough to be included in two of the writer’s essay collections. Despite its unlikely literary beginnings, “The Santaland Diaries” has become holiday mainstay for the stage, expanded into a ninety-minute work performed by a solitary actor who channels (or doesn’t) the deadpan Sedaris-as-elf delivery. Locally, the face most associated with this role is Chicago actor Lance Stuart Baker, a likable performer at ease with the material and a lizard-eyed delivery that is winning in its acerbity. But the performance could use some trims here and there. Baker tends to lean too hard on the sarcasm—why underscore what is self-evident in the script?—but to his credit he has made the part his own. Under the direction of Jeremy Wechsler, the Theater Wit production is an especially loosey-goosey affair, which seems just right. The play demands not reverence, but a jaded sort of jolliness that allows for priceless ad-libbing in the direction of late arrivals and the occasional malfunctioning prop. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.