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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


The Santaland Diaries

Also see John's review of Luv

Santaland Diarires
Michael McKeever
Parade Productions recently presented The Santaland Diaries at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center. The humorous one-act play began as an essay by David Sedaris, which he read on the NPR Radio show "Morning Edition" in 1992. The piece was so well received it proved to be a major break for Sedaris and a much longer version aired on the Public Radio International program "This American Life" in 1996. That same year, Joe Mantello adapted Sedaris' essay for the stage, debuting at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York on November 7, 1996.

The autobiographical tale of the reminiscences of a former elf at Macy's department store during Christmas in New York was perfectly timed for the holiday season. The black box performing space of The Studio at Mizner Park was transformed into a Christmas wonderland, with an oversized Santa chair and four-foot-tall candy canes. Huge stuffed animals and wrapped presents galore spilled over the fake snow covered stage as the host for the evening bid us welcome with a martini in hand as dry as the sense of humor with which he spun the tale.

Quickly clad in a green tunic, red and white striped tights, a long cap, and shoes with curved toes, Michael McKeever, as Crumpet, looked every inch the part of a Macy's Christmas elf. He comfortably engaged the audience from the very beginning with his knowing smile and ever so slightly jaded observations of human nature. Fans of Sedaris will know that this early work is a tad less biting than some of his later ones. In interviews, he is unabashedly unapologetic about his sarcastic and bitchy style. That is the point, however. This is not meant to be a cloyingly sweet story of Christmas cheer.

McKeever personified a good natured, world weary take on the less than glamorous, behind the scenes reality of being a store elf. His comic timing and pacing were spot on as he spoke on topics ranging from elf training to parents tossing dirty diapers in the fake snow of Santaland. Since the play is a series of shared stories it never really lets the viewer's attention wander. Tying it all up at the end with just the right amount of unexpected warmth is true Sedaris, and McKeever delivered a slightly sweet ending that surely satisfies all.

American humorist, comedian, author and radio contributor David Sedaris has been described as the rock star of writers. Much of his humor is autobiographical and often concerns his middle-class, Greek upbringing in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina. He is known for his keen wit and wry powers of observation. Sedaris published his first collection of essays and short stories, "Barrel Fever," in 1994. His next five essay collections, "Naked," "Holidays on Ice," "Me Talk Pretty One Day," "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" and "When You Are Engulfed in Flames," all became New York Times Best Sellers, and by 2008 his books had sold seven million copies.

This production of The Santaland Diaries appeared December 13-23, 2012 at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center, at 201 Plaza Real (on the 2nd floor) in Boca Raton. Currently housed in The Studio at Mizner Park in the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center, Parade Productions is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 professional theatre company dedicated to theatre excellence, educational opportunities in the arts, and the production of works that address old questions and raise new ones. For tickets or information on their season you may contact them at 561-291-9678 or www.paradeproductions.org.

Cast:
Crumpet: Michael McKeever*
Elfina: Sheri Wieseman

Crew:
Director: Kim St. Leon
Lighting Design: Evan B. Narlinger
sound Design: David Hart
Stage Manager: Stephanie Kelly

*Indicates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers.


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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