David Sedaris. Beloved humour writer, replete with wit and insight, and whose numerous books detailing his observations and life are infinitely entertaining. To prep us for this holiday season, Lunchbox Theatre is bringing a taste of Sedaris to audiences with The Santaland Diaries – adapted from Sedaris’s work of the same name and based on his own experience working as a mall elf at Macy’s in New York. This one-man show features Devon Dubnyk as Crumpet, the disillusioned elf who has seen the seedy side of elfdom, and who definitely has some opinions on it.
“It’s all the secret, behind-the-scenes, cynical views of the real goings on — the very adult perspective on Macy’s Santaland,” Dubnyk explains.
A sort of chronicling of elf duties, as it were.
“A part of what (Sedaris) goes into in the play is what exactly you could do as an elf on any given day, and his descriptions about the various positions and jobs within Santaland and what his various duties entail. He pokes fun at the ridiculousness of it and how he fits into that world,” says Dubnyk, adding, “I think ironically he becomes kind of good at it and is a little bit resentful of the other elves that aren’t so good at the job.”
Does Dubnyk think Crumpet is cranky? “Absolutely! He’s a bit cranky, he’s definitely cynical. It’s very funny, his cynicism, and it’s very observational. It comes from a place of stoic observation and lets the audience be the judge on the commercialization of Christmas, this environment of Santaland and the chaos of it.”
All sorts head to the mall to visit Santa, and not just parents with children. There is also a contingent of adults (like me, actually) who regularly visit the old man just for kicks. “These are things that Crumpet talks about,” says Dubnyk. “He talks about the number of adults that come to visit Santa and what they typically do or don’t do, who they could be, or how sometimes they are just confused people who got bullied into the maze by the entrance elf at Macy’s. So there’s funny anecdotal stories about all that sort of stuff that is totally relatable.”
(Writer’s note: I have never been bullied into the maze – I go voluntarily.)
Admittedly a Sedaris fan, Dubnyk finds both The Santaland Diaries and playing Crumpet to be great fun. “I love the writing, the comedy in (the play), so one of the challenges for me has been balancing David Sedaris’s delivery – if you listen to him voice his audiobooks, he’s very dry. It’s very funny, but I initially tried to approach the character in that vein and very quickly felt that theatre demands another kind of energy, so I think that where the character has landed is a little bit of a blend between that David Sedaris dry stoicism, that cynical stoic anecdotal humour and my own crazy energy — so it’s some sort of blend between those. It can be manic, and yet stoic.
And let’s face it. Manic and stoic is funny.
Devon Dubnyk performs The Santaland Diaries until Dec. 23 at Lunchbox Theatre. Ticket and information at lunchboxtheatre.com.
Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and has continued to bring event listings to Calgary through theYYSCENE and her event listings page, The Culture Cycle. Contact her at email@example.com.