Theatreworks presents escapist holiday fare ‘The Santaland Diaries’

By: Michelle Karas

November 29, 2017 Updated: November 29, 2017 at 2:43 pm

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Sammie Joe Kinnett stars as Crumpet the Elf in David Sedaris’ “The SantaLand Diaries” at Theatreworks, Nov. 30-Dec. 23, 2017.

If you’re looking for a break from the holiday bustle – and a few good laughs – Theatreworks has just the remedy.

The theater company is putting on humorist David Sedaris’ “The Santaland Diaries,” adapted by Joe Mantello, as its final performance at the Regent Circle Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, its home since the summer of 2003, before moving to the Ent Center for the Arts for a production of “Oklahoma!” in February.

“The Santaland Diaries” will be performed at Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater from Thursday through Dec. 23.

Murray Ross, the late artistic director of Theatreworks, chose the play to cap the company’s residency at its current theater, said Geoffrey Kent, director. The company is planning a Champagne toast to say goodbye to the old theater on the final night of the run after the 7:30 p.m. performance Dec. 23.

Sedaris (“Me Talk Pretty One Day,” “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk”) wrote about the downside of holiday merriment in an essay based on his experiences working as a department store elf. He first read the essay, “Santaland Diaries,” on NPR’s “Morning Edition” in 1992 and it quickly became a top request.

“It’s important to know that if you love Sedaris’ writing, this show will speak to you, but if you’re unfamiliar with it it’s a great introduction. He’s an incredible comic writer,” Kent said.

In the play, “Sedaris passes judgment on the bad behavior of Christmas. It’s counterprogramming. I love ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘A Christmas Carol,’ but I also like to loop into that programming a little bit of sarcasm,” Kent said.

“The Santaland Diaries” became a one-man stage production, with the initial performance starring actor Timothy Olyphant (“Justified”) as Crumpet, the jaded elf. For Theatreworks, Colorado Springs actor Sammie Joe Kinnett plays Crumpet.

“He plays about 50 different characters in this show. It calls for a great actor with comedic chops,” Kent said. “And one of the reasons I’m directing it is because Sammie Joe and I collaborate well together. I’ve directed him eight times, and this is my sixth time directing him at Theatreworks.”

Kent, who teaches stage combat at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, expanded the cast with UCCS students Eleanor Sturt, Staci Mize, Jareth Spirio and Sean Sharif as elves.

“They don’t have any lines in the play, but they do a lot of visual storytelling,” said Kent, who wanted to give students an opportunity to join the cast and to give Kinnett a break from the “heavy lifting” of carrying all the dialogue.

“It feels like a really goofy and light comedy, which it is, but it has this really beautiful twist where you watch this elf rediscover Christmas. He’s confronted by the Santa we all want, and that changes him,” Kent said.

The show contains mature content; Kent said it’s PG-13. “It definitely isn’t children’s theater.”

“This is awesome escapist holiday fare,” he said. “And it’ll get you back out to the mall or your families in about 70 minutes, with no intermission. Pop in to see a nice play.”