For the second consecutive holiday season, the Santaland Diaries, David Sedaris’ hilarious extremely wry examination of the commercialization of Christmas, was a big hit at Oddfellows Playhouse. The show, presented as a one-man monologue, ran this past weekend in front of large crowds from Thursday to Saturday night.
The Santaland Diaries was a departure from traditional Oddfellows productions in both its production and content. The show was not student-performed and was for mature audiences of 13 or older. A short story of biting vignettes told by a man named David who takes the jump of a Macy Store’s elf in the month leading up to Christmas, the Santaland Diaries featured a significant amount of vulgar content. To be far, all of it was earned.
“The idea behind performing the Santaland Diaries, besides raising funds for our future productions next year, was that it gave us the chance to put on something relevant for the holidays, as well as edgier than our regular material,” said Oddfellows executive director Matt Pugliese. “The show was a great way to give people something to see that’s fun and a break from the business of the holidays that also has a lot of artistic merit.”
The Santaland Diaries featured a multitude of acerbic comic material. The writing captured the absurdity of working as an elf and of the crass commercialization of Christmas. There were gut-busting vignettes one after another, including Crumpet’s descriptions of his ghastly elf uniform (which came with Lombardi changing into the uniform) and having been forced to recite Christmas carols by a belligerent Santa. Even if the audience may not have had a holiday experience unique as working as an elf at Macy’s, they could appreciate the frustrations Crumpet expressed when he discussed being forced to be cheery every minute of the day or gleefully related parent’s screaming at their children as they waited in line to see Santa. Everyone reveled in the show’s send-up of modernized Christmas and its disregard for sentiment. In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it was an opportunity for the audience to remember to not take it all so seriously.
In the role of Macy’s elf Crumpet was Michael Lombardi, a Hamden resident and member of the Greater Middletown Chorale. From the moment he started speaking no one could take their eyes of the star. The animated and wide-eyed Lombardi alternately stalked the stage and sat in a chair as he vividly made Crumpet’s one of a kind tales come to life. By capturing both the show’s sarcasm and hints of sincerity, Lombardi emboldened the Santaland Diaries with the performance it needed to succeed.
The show received significant volunteer support. Hamden high school students Beech Copeland and Bailey Gould, who participate in the Oddfellows Technical Theater Program, operated the sound and lightboard for the show. Tate Burmeister, a professional theatrical lighting designer, also volunteered his services. Finally, local resident Tony Palmeiri, who played the role of Crumpet in last year’s production of the Santaland Diaries, directed the production this year.
“I could not have been more pleased with how the show went,” said Palmeiri. The audience seemed to really enjoy it. I was looking to deliver a fun, sarcastic edge, and it delivered exactly what I was looking for.”