Through the smiling faces of wide-eyed children and the all-too-perfect display of a cheerful and commercialized version of the North Pole, Macy’s Santaland is a hierarchical placed constipated with veteran elves, belligerent Santas, and militant routines. If you don’t believe me, just ask David Sedaris.
That’s right, the esteemed author tells about his days as a novice elf for Macy’s Santaland in his wickedly clever and terribly bitter essay The Santaland Diaries. And in true, cynical holiday spirit, the hilarious story has been adapted for stage by Philadelphia’s Flashpoint Theatre as a one act interactive experience for all to enjoy.
The Santaland Diaries follows the antics of a thirty-something, unemployed wanna-be New York actor who, in a quest for the green, decides to work as an elf for Macy’s decked out winter wonderland. It’s not a job he expected to land, chiefly because he purposely sabotaged the interview. But to his surprise, he was called back for more interviews and was actually offered a position as a Santaland elf. With no other opportunities falling in his lap, he takes the job, not thinking about as anything more than a paycheck.
Oh boy was he wrong.
Played by Flashpoint’s Derick Loafmann, our protagonist, who assumes the name of Crumpet, quickly realizes that the holiday grind at Macy’s Santaland is nothing more than an awful and demoralizing place, with non-stop ringing of overflowing cash registers, racist parents who want, you know, the “other” Santa, and mobs of children crying, screaming, and throwing tantrums. He holds our hands through all the decorated locations of this animatronic extravaganza – from the looking window, to the Enchanted Forest, to the talking trees and Santa’s oh-so-special throne. He shows us his embarrassing outfit – a glittery green smock, an off-white undershirt and candy cane stripped leggings. He even pulls out the Santaland training book – an inflexible guide compiled with strict rules and regulations.
Yea, it’s that bad and that discomforting.
But it’s just another step Crumpet has to take in achieving his dream of working beside the delectable Victoria Buchanan and her sensationally diabolical clan on the kitschy soap opera One Life to Live. And while this far-reaching daydream never leaves the actor’s mind while working Santaland, he truly tries to make fun out of an obnoxious situation.
In short, being a Macy’s Santaland elf is a redundant routine. Yes, Crumpet had the chance to meet new people, particularly a cute little chap who he falls for but unfortunately turns out to be a reckless flirt. And maybe Crumpet learned some new skills to help him in his future endeavors, but it doesn’t make up for all the crap he has to deal with. So, to keep himself sane, he toys with the visitors at the dismay of his bosses.
At one point, while working the looking window, where children can step up on a star to see Santa from far away, he tells the customers that they can see Cher (they really can’t). At another, when ex-Genesis drummer Phil Collins makes an appearance so his children can see Santa, he informs each person in line of the musician’s presence, prompting the customers to run screaming for him, begging for autographs. The thing is, Crumpet wasn’t allowed to draw attention to celebrities at the advisement of his superiors and this rule doesn’t stop him, obviously.
The Santaland Diaries is an incredibly wacky tale, one that is ever more bizarre when brought to stage. The full of life Loafmann is absolutely charming as Crumpet, conveying almost-perfectly the underlining acrimony growing in the lead. He bounces around and weaves through the audience, making eye contact with viewers and turning each excited body into an important part of the story. His animated movements and enthusiastic word play more than made up for the few lines he stumbled on. But his mixed up rambling seemed more as a result of his exhilaration in this role rather than poor acting.
And a poor actor Loafmann was not.
And while it may be too late this holiday season to catch this comical adaptation of Sedaris’ essay, keep it in mind for next year. You’ll walk out of the performance with happy tears in your eyes and pains in your sides.