By David Sedaris
Adapted by Joe Mantello
Directed by and featuring Paxton McCaghren
Queen’s Head Theatre, Winter Park FL
One door closes and another one opens, and this elegant space in a distant strip center offers good seats, good sight lines and a challenge to locate for the dedicated theater goer. Queen’s Head is the most recent addition to the local theatre scene, and they begin their journey with a low keyed one man show. The story comes from humorist David Sedaris; he’s desperate for work and eventually lands in the holiday hell of Macy’s “Santaland.” The job sucks, but so does homelessness. There’s plenty of employee training horror stories, but soon Mr. Sedaris finds himself in a green thong, striped tights, and the stupidest hat in New York City. His story begins bitchy and desperate, then turn into a Stockholm Syndrome show of solidarity before reaching a truly touching climax. His journey is a sodden marshmallow in this mulled cider sea of seasonal cynicism.
Mr. McCaghren directed himself, and while this is always a risky proposition the result holds true to the spirt of the original story. He smokes and tokes and drinks through the first act, but hits his groove with well told and well-acted battle stories about the happiest time of the year. While the job is stressing and underpaid, he falls into the rhythm and becomes a cog in the well-oiled selling machine. Dealing with the public is the worst part of any job; tales of bad photo ops and children peeing in the fake snow will make you grimace, but at the end you might think: “there is hope after all…but it just isn’t in Macys …”
The sprawling stage is filled with back alley detritus of New York, and the theme is “You can make the world a better place if you remove on unpleasant thing every day.” Sedaris/ McCaghren accomplished that, and we feel better for his vision if not his implementation. The simple irony is we all have some sort of pleasant holiday memories, but the process of either recalling them or passing them along to the next generation is, in itself, one of the most miserable jobs you can ever imagine. The deep message here is: “Don’t sweat it dude, lay back and let whatever happens, happen.” And you don’t need to go to a mall or a black Friday sale to feel good about yourself. In fact, go so something weird – visit Gator Land and get Thai food after. It’s a better memory and easier on the credit card.
For more information on the Queen’s Head Theatre, please visit www.queensheadtheatre.com