By Claudia Dafrico
It goes without saying that Atlanta has no shortage of Christmas traditions, from ice skating at Centennial Park to taking a trip down to Callaway Gardens to see the lights. But for those looking for a little more “naughty” than “nice” in their festivities, look no further than Horizon Theatre’s annual production of David Sedaris’ THE SANTALAND DIARIES. Adapted from Sedaris’ hilarious essay detailing his brief stint as one of Santa’s many elves in Macy’s Santaland, The Santaland Diaries serves to be a perfect mix of Christmas cheer and the biting wit that Sedaris has since become famous for.
While Sedaris is known for many of his full-length essay collections, such as ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY and DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN COURDORY AND DENIM, his 1992 essay on his adventures in Santaland is what put him on the map in the first place. Sedaris, at the time a contributor for NPR, read the piece on the radio program THIS AMERICAN LIFE, and the absurd hilarity of Sedaris’ prose along with is dry, unique intonation brought the piece widespread popularity. A dramatized version for the stage was soon produced, and Atlanta’s own Horizon Theatre jumped at the chance to bring a new Christmas experience to the city. The theatre has since put on The Santaland Diaries every holiday season for the past 17 years, and shows no signs of stopping soon.
One of the many reasons why The Santaland Diaries has maintained such popularity is Harold M. Leaver’s impeccable performance as Crumpet, Sedaris’ elfin alter ego. Leaver has been playing Crumpet throughout the entire run of the show so far, and it’s clear that he has enjoyed every second of it. His performance is an impeccable rendition of Sedaris’ own diction with Leaver’s own personal touch and style, which proves to be highly entertaining to witness. At one point, Crumpet selects a hapless audience member to join him in his antics, and even the shyest of volunteers is eventually won over by his wit and charisma. Leaver snarks and frolics in a manner which Sedaris would surely be proud.
Along for the ride are Crumpet’s two “sidekicks,” played by Atlanta theatre vets Lala Cochran and Enoch King, who show no hesitation in being completely ridiculous and outrageous. Because the two play every character other than Crumpet himself, they are constantly running backstage for quick changes that are seemingly impossible given the time constraints, but Cochran and King pull it off without flaw. It’s a treat to watch the duo play whiny children one second and vulgar adults the next, and when alongside Leaver’s sassy yet sweet Crumpet, the laughs are near constant.
The ambiance of the theatre itself is not to be overlooked, as the whole place is decked out in cozy Christmas cheer that invites you to relax and enjoy the eggnog-fueled frivolity that is The Santaland Diaries. The stage is a mini Winter Wonderland, and the intimate nature of the performance space lends itself to frequent audience interaction and participation (be prepared to shout and cheer along with your new elf friends). With reasonable tickets prices and a great location, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t make your way over to the Horizon this Christmas and treat yourself and a guest to a night with Crumpet and friends. You’ll never look at Lenox Square’s Santa the same way again, I can guarantee you that.