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December 2nd, 2011 By Rick Pender | Arts | Posted In: Theater

Stage Door: It's the Truth Edition

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newsJoshua Steele in 'The Santaland Diaries' - Photo courtesy New Edgecliff Theatre
There are lots of holiday shows available to you this weekend, and just about every one of them is pretty entertaining. But based on a smallish audience at last night’s opening of The Santaland Diaries, I want to draw your attention to New Edgecliff Theatre’s revival of a great performance from a year ago: Joshua Steele takes on David Sedaris’ hilarious account of holiday employment as an elf at Macy’s Santaland. It was great a year ago, but this time around he’s taken it up another notch.

Steele is a gifted performer, both physically and vocally. He captures Sedaris’ sardonic intonations, but can quickly switch to a thuggish customer telling him how “fucking stupid” he looks or a crazed parent “art directing” a video shot of a crowd of children around a department store Santa. Steel has a wiry body and an animated face, and he uses them to full advantage, bouncing with mock enthusiasm as he recreates an “elf trainer” doing a “S-A-N-T-A” cheer or sliding into a wild, red-lit fantasy when he realizes that “Santa” is an anagram for “Satan.” As you might guess, this one-man performance is definitely not one for the kids, but if your sense of humor runs to the ironic, this is the holiday show for you.

I commend NET for dropping the unpleasant piece that’s previously been paired with Santaland (Happy Holidays portrays a woman writing a holiday letter recounting a year of unfortunate events that spiral way beyond humor). Instead, NET has partnered with the guys from True Theatre who have had quarterly success at Know Theater with evenings of monologues delivered by everyday people about true events, usually gathered around a theme (such as “True Love” for a program near Valentine’s Day).

For the second hour of the NET evening, True Theatre is offering three speakers on the subject of “True Christmas.” There will be a different set of speakers for each of the three weekends of the NET production. This weekend we hear about a Christmas eve in Texas involving a bittersweet encounter focused on two dogs, about a woman with a perfect plan to have a baby that gets derailed, but turns out OK in time for Christmas, and a memory by a big sister about “time slowing down” around Christmas and how she handled the truth about Santa. Each of these was delivered with heartfelt emotion.

This is a different kind of Christmas entertainment, one that I would highly recommend to those of you who can’t quite smile through the forced humor of many holiday shows.

Through Dec. 17. Tickets: 888-588-0137.

 
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