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Santaland Diaries 

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"Congratulations, sir, you are an elf!" That is good news. Crumpet the elf (Rudy San Miguel) tells us he was a mere $20 away from walking dogs for a living when he landed a job as one of Kris Kringle's helpers at Macy's Santaland.

  Crumpet is the only character in David Sedaris' celebrated Christmas monologue Santaland Diaries, which recently got an entertaining whirl at Actor's Theatre of New Orleans. It reveals the nerve-wracking experiences of working in the giant department store during the holidays.

  Crumpet was a more-or-less normal 33-year-old who arrived in the Big Apple hoping to become a cast or crew member on one of his favorite soap operas. But in the desperate Yuletide season, "Don we now our gay apparel" means striped tights and a colorful tunic to be worn with relentless cheer.

  The strange world of Macy's synthetic North Pole includes many Santas — known to fellow employees by their real first names, as in Santa Doug and Santa Howard. There also are black Santas, although one African-American customer complains her daughter's Santa isn't dark enough, and some white customers insist on white Santas.

  Most of the humor arises from Crumpet's acerbic description of the surreal mayhem. One elf feels compelled to tell the tots she's not really an elf but an artist. One Santa is such a Method actor he stays in character even when there are no children around.

  The main task facing elves and Santas alike, however, is simple. Get the kids in, get them to ask Santa for what they want (hopefully an item available at Macy's), get the picture snapped, then move on to the next customer. Factory worker elves and Santas produce an assembly line Christmas. We're a long way from Bethlehem.

  In the end, we're told about an appearance by an unknown Santa Claus, who we're led to believe is the real Santa. He offers some poignant Christmas inspiration to one and all, like Scrooge and the Grinch once they've seen the light, but in this case, the redemption seems forced.

  Under Chelle Ambrose's direction, San Miguel delivered a spirited and convincing performance. — Dalt Wonk


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