MOORHEAD — Think about Santa’s Village at your local shopping center.
Children likely remember the magic of sitting on his lap and rattling off a Christmas wish list. But for the parent or guardian of that child, chances are they mostly recall waiting in a long line with other tired parents and fussy children.
Now, imagine what it would be like to be the elf working at Santa’s Village. That’s the perspective David Sedaris recounts in “Santaland Diaries,” a hilarious essay about his experience as a Christmas elf at the Macy's Santaland in New York City.
Joe Mantello adapted “The Santaland Diaries” into a play in 1996, and since then, the one-man show about Crumpet the Christmas Elf has entertained crowds around the country. This holiday season, the show is coming to Theatre B in Moorhead. “The Santaland Diaries,” starring local comedian J.J. Gordon as Crumpet, opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, and runs through Dec. 15.
Similar to the original essay by Sedaris, the play follows a struggling young actor who, out of desperation, accepts a job as Crumpet the Christmas Elf at one of the largest Santalands in the world. As the monologue unfolds, Crumpet regales the audience with his many adventures involving frustrated parents, bodily fluids, overly animated elves and all of the Santas who had “their own unique approaches” to the character, Gordon says.
“The situations he gets into are sometimes really sweet and make you excited for Christmas and bring back that magic, and some of them are also those dumpster fire Christmas moments,” Gordon quips. “The show builds and builds in energy like a pressure cooker. The whole time, you’re waiting for the release.”
Director Tucker Lucas says the play is “about the anxiety we all feel during the holidays, but is still a holiday show in that it has a kind of redemptive aspect to it.”
This is the second show Lucas has directed for Theatre B. The troupe wanted the talented Gordon specifically for the role of Crumpet because of his experience in comedy, theater and improvisation. Even the elf costume in the show was created specifically for Gordon.
"His costume alone is worth the price of admission,” Lucas laughs.
Gordon, Lucas and the Theatre B crew have explored new ways to bring Crumpet’s story to life by embracing the cheesy, commercial aspects of Christmas in the set design and adding their own comedy bits to the tale.
“Because J.J. is such a funny physical performer and improviser, we were able to come up with a few segments where he does some physical humor that fits with the story we’re telling without modifying the script in any significant way,” Lucas says.
Although the show is technically one big monologue, the team has built in opportunities for audience participation that will make for a uniquely entertaining performance every night.
“You could see this show two times and see two completely different shows based on how the audience reacts,” Gordon says. “Plus, on the second time around, there’s that feeling in your stomach when you’re in on the gag before everyone else.”
Lucas adds, “(The audience) is in the show, too, but it’s not the kind of audience participation where we take you on stage and embarrass you.”
Gordon is excited for his first one-man show and looks forward to the new energy each crowd will bring throughout the performance. Lucas is looking forward to the “sound of laughter,” he says.
“That’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: hearing people respond to the work that we’ve all been doing,” Lucas says.
Tickets to “The Santaland Diaries” are selling fast, with the Dec. 7 show already sold out. Group rates are available for businesses or organizations, too.
If you go
What: Theatre B presents “The Santaland Diaries”
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from Nov. 23 through Dec. 15, and 2 p.m. matinees Dec. 2 and 9
Where: Theatre B, 215 10th St. N., Moorhead
Info: theatreb.org or 701-729-8880