Automatic Vaudeville’s smartly staged and sassily
performed second annual presentation of The SantaLand Diaries,
playing Dec. 14-16 and 21-24 at Raleigh Charter High School, is a
powerful antidote to all those oh-so-sweet, ever-so-sentimental seasonal
shows now playing a tear-jerking tune on the heartstrings of Triangle
theatergoers. In expressing his wonderfully warped view of Macy’s
employees and shoppers during the increasing frantic and stressful
countdown of shopping days before Christmas, David Sedaris dipped
his pen in acid to write the arch and unashamedly cynical autobiographical
National Public Radio “Morning Edition” commentary that
evolved into the side-splitting R-rated essay that Joe Mantello brilliantly
adapted for the stage.
Triangle theater veteran Jesse R. Gephart is a scream as he energetically
reenacts Sedaris’ hilarious experiences applying for the job,
training, and actually working as an Elf named Crumpet in SantaLand
in Macy’s in New York City. Whether reciting Sedaris’ invariably
wry, eyebrow-raising reminiscences about the ordeal of Elf training
and the increasingly stressful weeks in SantaLand, or about interacting
with dim-witted fellow elves and deranged Santas and deranged Macy’s
customers (it’s hard to tell who is scarier, the Santas or
the customers), tall, whippet-thin Jesse Gephart really gets in touch
with his sardonic side and channels David Sedaris with great style
and wit. Gephart’s facial expressions are priceless as he recounts
with growing alarm the horror of sharing smoke breaks with co-workers
who inquire of management if they can work in SantaLand year-round
and/or wear their costumes home!
RCHS faculty member Maggie Rasnick not only gets a sharply etched
and completely convincing comic characterization from her former
student Jesse Gephart, but she also stages this 65-minute one-man
show with great gusto on a splendid Elf-dressing-room set imaginatively
conceived and constructed by Thomas Mauney, while Gephart prances
to and fro wearing an absolutely hilarious baggy red-and-green Elf
costume—complete with a cute Elf hat that has to be seen to
be believed and precious pointy-toed Elf shoes—created by Callie
All in all, The SantaLand Diaries is in good hands; and
Automatic Vaudeville earns kudos for repeating this highly entertaining
production. Star Jesse Gephart and director Maggie Rasnick and the
show’s creative team do a fine job of making this by-now highly
familiar story by former Raleigh resident David Sedaris very fresh
and very, very funny.
Automatic Vaudeville presents The
SantaLand Diaries Thursday-Saturday,
Dec. 14-16 and 21-23, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 24, at 6 p.m.
at Raleigh Charter High School, 1111 Haynes St., Raleigh, North
Carolina. $15 ($10 student and seniors), except all tickets $100
on Christmas Eve. 919/859-4682. Raleigh Charter High School: http://www.raleighcharterhs.org/.
David Sedaris: http://www.barclayagency.com/sedaris.html.
The SantaLand Diaries: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0822216310.