KPBS AIRDATE: December 21, 2001
If the daily news and the family gatherings are getting you down, what you need is some holiday cheer. How about a Christmas comedy?
In the nasty-but-nice department, there’s “The SantaLand Diaries” at the Globe Theatres, an adaptation of the hilarious 1992 David Sedaris essay adored by NPR fans nationwide. Here, in Joe Mantello’s 1996 version, directed by Brendon Fox, Arnie Burton is the reluctant department store elf. He’s a thoroughly likable, talented actor who changes accents, dialects, voices and clothes in the twinkling of an eye — clowning with the audience, and making fun of the various visitors and Santas at Macy’s, New York. The all-green set is a hoot, but there are a few little script annoyances; like, if they’re going to update the topical references, why is the frustrated writer still using an archaic typewriter? And where on earth is he flying off to at the end, when he’s so poor he’s desperate enough to take a job as an elf? I must admit, I missed the honest-to-goodness first-person whiney-voiced delivery of David Sedaris. Still, this is an amusingly acid-laced holiday trifle; it goes down easy though it loses its flavor fast.
In a more political comic vein, local theatermakers Gayle Feldman and Todd Blakesley have created “Carol: A Christmas Story,” a deliciously feminist take on Dickens’ classic, an inventive premiere for their new Women’s Repertory Theatre. Carol Scrooge, a controlling, workaholic executive, delightfully played by Helen Lesnick, gives plenty of money away…she’s stingy with her time. And her deaf sister (a terrific Lee Lempard) and adolescent niece could really use it. All she cares about is trashing her dead mother (droll MSusan Niemann) and getting young Tiny Tina big boobs for Christmas–so she can really succeed. Feldman and Blakesley have some really humorous ideas, just a few too many for one 90-minute play. The mother-daughter relationship issues could go; the anthrax, female, deaf and religious themes are quite enough for now. With trimming, this piece, only two months in the writing, could become a comical perennial. Power to the Women .. and the Women’s Rep…
Speaking of stage-adapted essays, North Coast Repertory Theatre brings to life two Truman Capote stories in Russell Vandenbroucke’s “Holiday Memories.” A crackerjack cast and Sean Murray’s imaginative direction are charming and enchanting, but they only underscore how gorgeously evocative Capote’s writing is. Lush, poetic language like this doesn’t really need to be dramatized. But the company gives its all, from the suggestive set and lighting to Sean Robert Cox’s bemused narrator, his frisky pup (realistic dog-sounds courtesy of Melissa Supera) and most of all, Miss Sook, his childlike, lovable cousin, irresistibly played by Pat DiMeo.
From sugarplums to cyanide, San Diego theater has something for everyone. Indulge and enjoy.
©2001 Patté Productions Inc