Something funny has to happen when the star in a one-man show is dressed in green and white wide-striped tights, hot-pink and red pumpkin pants trimmed in gold, a pink vest with lollypop buttons, a soft-serve ice-cream hat and elf shoes.
An hour and a half on stage by oneself isn’t an easy task for any actor. But David Brian Alley’s characterization of Crumpet the Elf in Macy’s Department Store’s Santaland Village in “Santaland Diaries” kept the audience laughing and looking forward to the story he would tell next.
Adapted by Joe Mantello from the essay by humorist and author David Sedaris, the play is a recounting of Sedaris’ Christmas season in the best of a bad pick of jobs available to an out-of-work actor and writer trying to survive in New York.
As Alley’s Sedaris says after he interviewed for the Macy’s job, it had to be several steps above dressing up as a French fry and standing on the street corner in Times Square.
The only thing missing from Alley’s Crumpet was the comically saccharine tone Sedaris infuses into every line he delivers in his hilarious monologues about life as he sees it.
But there are moments of truth, too, in Crumpet’s observations about people and how they treat each other, especially their children.
Alley’s performance gets those dead-on with both what he says and the way he delivers the lines, which aren’t given away until the last moment. He had the audience at his opening-night performance wrapped around his finger.
One could easily see the Santas he describes sitting in the elevated chair at the center of Stephen Brown’s set design, which could have easily been in Macy’s Santaland, especially when Crumpet slouches in the chair himself.
Going to visit Santa is a ritual in many families in which the parents don’t otherwise spend enough time with their offspring to have a sense of what gifts their children might like. Good Santas, as Crumpet notes, know how to elicit those wishes without the child realizing they are really talking to a listening parent.
There are also the Santas who know how to flatter the whole family, as well as some who have unsavory eyes for young mothers.
In Crumpet’s keen eyes, there are plenty of mothers who shouldn’t be mothers – such as the one who directed her little boy to pee into the cotton snow because she didn’t want to lose her place in line to take him to the bathroom.
Or the one who solicited Crumpet’s help to scare her son into better behavior. Crumpet grabs the chance to tell the kid that his entire life and everything he knows will be destroyed if he doesn’t straighten up.
All of these snippets in the life of Crumpet are captured by Alley’s sense of Sedaris’ sardonic wit and biting sarcasm, which often had the audience in stitches.
“Santaland Diaries” is playing in the Ula Love Doughty Carousel Theatre while the main stage at Clarence Brown is being set up for “A Christmas Carol,” which opens next week. “Santaland” continues at 8 p.m. today and Friday and Saturday, Nov. 23-24, and ends its run with a show at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25. There is no Thanksgiving Day performance. Tickets may be purchased online or by calling the box office at 865-770-4761.