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THEATER REVIEW: "The Santaland Diaries" is a funny and caustic holiday treat

How embarrassing would it be to spend a holiday season in yellow and green tights, a yellow turtleneck, hunter green velvet shorts and jacket, an absurd stocking cap and turned-up elvin shoes?

Writer David Sedaris, like many another starving actor and writer, found out when he spent a holiday season at Macy’s as one of Santa’s elves. The result was the hilarious “The Santaland Diaries,” first heard on NPR in 1992 with Sedaris himself telling the story.

The story, adapted for the stage in 1996 by Joe Mantello, quickly became a holiday staple around the country.

New Village Arts Theatre presents the fourth production of the show through Dec. 24. This year’s production is directed by NVA Ensemble member Samuel Sherman.

Daren Scott is back to explain why he applied for the job (on a dare from his roommate ... and he was unemployed) and his wonder at the 10 pages of written questions and three interviews required to get the job. But he needs the job, he notes, and at least at Macy’s he’ll be inside and “it won’t be quite as sad as standing on a street corner dressed as a French fry.”

He goes on to describe elf training (complete with Walmart-style motivational cheers) and elf functions – such as magic star elf (children can see Santa if they stand on the star), working Santa Island, pointer elf (showing the way out).

This is a winning show because we can all identify with it. We haven’t all had Elf training, but everybody has walked past a local version of Santaland and seen the long lines, frazzled parents, whiny kids and temporary, smiling elves trying to keep the atmosphere cheery.

But it’s more than just a collection of funny stories. There are caustic jabs at parents laden with camera equipment who drag their uninterested kids to Santa “in their relentless quest for documentation,” and at fellow elves such as one he calls The Walrus, who “acts as if Santaland were a singles bar.”

Scott is terrific in this sardonic tale, both wide-eyed and thorny, amused and horrified at the behavior on display. He has also clearly mastered the art tossing his hair, adding more hilarity to the proceedings. Director Sherman keeps the actor and the pace moving nicely.

If the relentless cheer of the holiday season is enough to curdle your latte, repair to New Village Arts Theatre for its now-traditional run of the delightfully caustic “Santaland Diaries.”

The details

“The Santaland Diaries” plays through Dec. 24 at New Village Arts Theatre, 2787 State St., Carlsbad.

Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

For tickets call (760) 433-3245 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.