Written by 12:01 am Lake Forest, Modjeska Playhouse, Review, Theater, Uncategorized

Holiday Humor : David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries & Season’s Greetings @ Modjeska Playhouse in Lake Forest – Review

Written by Daniella Litvak

The holiday season inevitably stirs up a lot of emotions.  Right now, I’m nostalgic, remembering when a friend gave me a book titled Holidays On Ice and thereby introduced me to the world of humorist David Sedaris.  I have read other Sedaris works since then, but Holidays On Ice has stuck with me the most because it features my favorite Sedaris-authored work, “SantaLand Diaries.”

Admittedly choosing “SantaLand Diaries” as my favorite is not a surprising choice.  In 1992, Sedaris was an unknown artist until he made “his comic début on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, reading ‘SantaLand Diaries.” [1]  Sedaris was a hit, and that reading became Sedaris’ springboard to a prolific career, which includes several published books, two Grammy Awards nominations, and a stage adaptation of the “SantaLand Diaries” combined with “Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!” (another selection from Holidays On Ice) titled The SantaLand Diaries & Season’s Greetings.

Warning, while there are a couple of genuinely warm and fuzzy moments, the show is a satire and doesn’t pull any punches about the steamier side of the holidays or humanity in general.  As advertised, the show is intended “for mature elves only.”

The play consists of two plotlines.  One is about David (Christopher Sullivan), a thirty-five-year-old man living in New York City who has become so destitute he is forced to take a job working as an elf in Macy’s SantaLand.  The other is Jocelyn Dunbar (Shana Jean Martin) recounting to her friends and family (via her annual holiday newsletter) about the latest Dunbar family happenings, which include the arrival of Jocelyn’s husband’s lovechild from Vietnam and taking custody of her grandson while the mother is at rehab.  For the most part, the two storylines are discrete.  It would be easy to imagine each plot as its own one-man show.

However, the stories are told concurrently.  It begins with David and Jocelyn making their entrance onto the stage, and David heads to the side, resembling an apartment/employee break room, while Jocelyn is on the side made up to look like a living room.  Then they take turns talking about two very different subjects.   At first, it seems odd to watch two actors performing in such proximity without any connection or effect on each other’s characters.  The stories themselves don’t intersect much at all.  Yet, thanks to the staging and set design, the characters could interact with each other.  For example, when Jocelyn unpacked a box, she took out a binder David immediately picked up so he could show the audience his “Elf Guidelines.” Watching Jocelyn clean up David’s mess and David lounging on Dunbar’s couch added some nice background moments.  Also, Jocelyn decorating the entire stage for Christmas was able to illustrate a thematic connection between the two plots.  The drawbacks to concurrent storytelling are that the back and forth sometimes makes it hard to follow the storylines and can lead to experiencing some strange mood whiplash.

Sullivan and Martin do an excellent job in their roles of David and Jocelyn.  Sullivan gets more of the flashier comedic bits, but Martin can capture your attention just as well –though her looking down and “reading” from her newsletter was distracting.  They also did well when the script called for them to act dramatically.  (Although the show’s heartfelt moments felt a little bit underdeveloped).

Overall, the Modjeska Playhouse put together a good production of The SantaLand Diaries & Season’s Greetings.  Yet, ultimately, I think your enjoyment of it will depend on how much you like the work of David Sedaris.  I recommend getting a feel for Sedaris’ style before seeing the show.

December 4th – 20th 8pm

(If you plan on going to this show, buying a ticket from this link helps support and keep the Orange Curtain Review running, Thank you.) 


My Review
8.6 Overall
0 Users (0 votes)
Set & Design10
What people say... 0 Leave your rating

Be the first to leave a rating.

Leave your rating

[1] Taken from Modjeska Playhouse’s The SantaLand Diaries & Season’s Greetings Program

(Visited 176 times, 1 visits today)
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Last modified: December 18, 2023