If you feel cranky about the holiday spirit, join others who feel the same by attending David Sedaris’ play The Santaland Diaries at this year’s Yule Ave.

This is the second year people have an opportunity to watch the play for the price of a donation. While The Santaland Diaries isn’t recommended for children, coordinator Frank Zotter explained he included the play as an offering for adults. Last year, it was such a success that he had to turn people away, and so he’s including the play again this year. Zotter, an actor, will also star in the play, which runs from Dec. 15-23 at Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts.

The play is about an unemployed actor who takes a job as a Christmas elf in order to pay the bills. But this story isn’t your usual warm-hearted view of the holiday season. Instead, The Santaland Diaries explores holiday consumerism with a cynical, satirical, and acerbic style of humour.

“It’s such a great, sardonic take on the season,” said Zotter. “There’s not a heck of a lot of Christmas plays out there. Most are sentimental. This is the alternative. It’s not your typical Christmas-themed story.”

The Santaland Diaries is told through the eyes of a disgruntled, middle-aged actor known as Crumpet the Elf while he’s working at Santaland. During the play, Crumpet explains how Christmas brings out the worst in people, with highlights like deplorable customers, dubious parental behaviour, terrible children, and drunken Santas.

Zotter said he’s looking forward to playing the role of Crumpet again. “I loved doing it and can’t wait to do it again. It’s such a pleasure to perform off-colour moments,” he said. “I love to see people squirm in their seats and then laugh at an uncomfortable truth.”

Sedaris wrote The Santaland Diaries as an essay based on his experience working as a Christmas elf at Macy’s Department Store. Sedaris’ essay became popular after he read it over the radio in 1992. Four years later, Joe Mantello adapted the essay into a one-person, one-act play.

“Sedaris has got a real biting sense of humour. The reveals and satire of what he discovers is smart. He knows how to get under the skin of things and reveal the ugly truth,” said Zotter.

Last year’s play was a huge success.| Supplied
Last year’s play was a huge success.| Supplied

The setting of the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts adds to the play’s appeal. Wayne Paquette is directing and staging the play, and Zotter explained Paquette uses the art as part of the set.

“The whole room is my space. [Wayne] converts the space into Santa’s village while keeping the Nina’s holiday artwork. It’s very festive in that room,” Zotter said.

It remains to be seen if the play will become a Yule Ave tradition. Zotter said Edmonton has some die-hard fans of Sedaris’ work and those fans came from across the city to see the play last year.

“We’ll see how it goes this year,” said Zotter. Then he joked, “It could take the place of A Christmas Carol, give it a run for its money.”

Header image: Laugh at some uncomfortable truths during The Santaland Diaries. | Supplied


The Santaland Diaries

Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts

9225 118 Ave

Dec. 15-23, 8-9 p.m.

Dec 16, 9:30-10:30 p.m.

No show on Dec. 19

Admission by donation. www.yuleave.com