Saturday, November 25, 2006
I AM MY OWN ...ELF??
‘Santaland Diaries' ~ Sure cure for Christmas cranks
By Dale McKinney
Desert Entertainer Magazine
Let's be honest - at some point the holidays' cheer always becomes a bad case of Christmas cranks. The best way to cure the seasonal psychosis is with a good dose of laughter.
Starting Nov. 30, “Santaland Diaries,” playing at the V-Lounge at the Villa Resort (behind Boomers in Cathedral City) will be playing through Dec. 23 - see it when before you snap. East coast actor Scott Wichmann stars in what the “New York Times” dubbed “A delightfully thorny account of working as a yuletide elf at Macy's.”
The author, David Sedaris, who made his fame reading his own works on National Public Radio and is the brother to actress/writer Amy Sedaris (“Strangers With Candy”), wrote about his humiliating experiences during his lean and hungry days working as a elf for Macy's enormous Santaland in New York City in his collected stories “Barrel Fever.”
As you can imagine, the real life of a Macy's elf is not a happy one. There's your demeaning costume, your forced cheerfulness, your corporate torturers, the imperious demands of parents, the unruly kids and, of course, all the crazy co-losers who work with you. On stage, the visual humor plays to the max.
As a struggling actor, Wichmann was no stranger to the world of degrading jobs a performer needs to make ends meet between professional gigs. “I worked at F.A.O. Schwarz as a toy demonstrator,” he recalls over the phone in our interview, “and they had this one toy that just absolutely humbled you. It was called the ‘Butt-head.' I had to put on this huge Velcro head and hand these balls out and have people throw them at me. I had to walk up to people and ask ‘Hey! Wanna play Butthead' with me? I would go home and think ‘There's a kid in my graduating class that's worth six million today and I'm getting balls thrown at my head for a living.'”
Playwright Joe Mantello's stage adaptation of the short story is very faithful to the original, so how hard is it to turn the cynical, dry wit of Sedaris into a comic stage performance? “So many people say comedy is hard,” Wichmann laughs, “but I say comedy is hard - if you're not funny.” For instance, when a pompous parent declares to “Crumpet,” the elf-costumed Sedaris, “I'm going to get you fired,” Sedaris deadpans, “And I'm going to have you killed.” Or when another parent insists that Crumpet tell her son to be good or he'll get coal for Christmas, Sedaris explains that Santa doesn't do coal anymore. “He sneaks into your house and robs you. He'll steal all your appliances and leave you in the dark and cold.”
But Wichmann has no fear of the caustic humor. “I first worked very hard not to sound like Sedaris,” he explains, “and simply be real, be me, and really take off when I play the different characters - like the woman who wants her kid to ask Santa to stop animal testing - I had so much fun playing the contrasting characters to Crumpet.”
And what part of the play does Wichmann find the funniest? “I honestly just love the bit when that jerky Santa demands that Crumpet sing ‘Away in a Manger' for the children and so he responds by singing it like Billie Holliday.” Over the phone, Wichmann whines out a smoky, sexy “Away in a Manger” that had me laughing so hard, we had to stop the interview.
Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 30, Dec. 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23
Dinner (6 p.m.) and show, $44 Show only (8 p.m.), $20
V Lounge at The Villa Resort
67-670 Carey Road
Cathedral City, CA