A Comical Perspective on the Holiday Hustle: Santaland Diaries at Austin’s ZACH Theatre

by Britni Rachal on December 20, 2018 in Entertainment, Theatre, Austin,
zach S Land cover 02 JM 1059222 e1544633735617

Back for a second year, and with a new elf, The Santaland Diaries has a new look and new showtimes. The play is showing through December 30 on the Whisenhunt stage at ZACH Theatre.

A very intimate, smaller, circular setting is what you’ll find at the Whisenhunt stage. It was my first time there and I really enjoyed the smaller environment. It provides a way for more audience interaction and I made eye contact regularly with The Santaland Diaries only actor, Crumpet the elf, played by the hysterical J. Robert Moore.

Written by David Sedaris, and first read on a radio show in 1992, The Santaland Diaries tells the outlandish tale of a Macy’s elf who struggles to make it through his temporary job during the Christmas season.

“I’m 33 years old — and I’m hoping to get a job as a Macy’s elf…” jokes Crumpet, as the play begins and he gives his dramatically vivid, animated view of the fictional character’s life “failures” and struggles. “I am $20 away from walking dogs for a living.”

In The Santaland Diaries at Zach Theatre, J. Robert Moore does an excellent job demonstrating the talent it takes to juggle tinsel, tearful kiddos and more. Photo Kirk Tuck

The play continues, detailing the hoops Crumpet has to jump through to get the job offer, train to be an elf, and keep his very demanding holiday gig. As the only actor in this play, J. Robert Moore does an excellent job of sarcastically explaining and demonstrating the talent it takes to juggle tinsel, tearful kiddos, and not-so-sober Santas, during what is hailed as the most wonderful time of the year.

Moore’s ability to keep the audience entertained, talking and singing continuously for 75 minutes straight, is very impressive. Not only that, but he really does engage the audience. At one point he even assigns several specific audience members different roles as elves.

Moore keeps the audience entertained, talking and singing continuously, for 75 minutes straight.
Photo Kirk Tuck

Warning though — this play isn’t for the faint of heart. Due to adult humor, The Santaland Diaries is only recommended for those ages 12 and up. But for everyone else, it’s likely that the not-so-politically correct play will definitely make you laugh until you spill your cocktail. Also, not to give any spoilers, but the end of the play does take a twist, from naughty to nice — with an ever-so-beautiful Christmas message that most people could appreciate.

With almost too many favorite parts to name, I did really enjoy when Crumpet detailed how he didn’t choose an elf name such as “Snowflake,” “Holly” or “Jolly” — instead he chose Crumpet, as he breaks out his shades and starts strutting around.

Crumpet explains he didn’t choose a regular elf name such as “Snowflake,” “Holly” or “Jolly.” Photo Kirk Tuck

I actually found myself wondering several times if Crumpet would even make it through the Christmas season without losing or quitting his job. Indeed, several shoppers threatened to get him fired after their not-so-jolly interactions with him. And then there was his encounter with Phil Collins when the music star decided to visit Santa at the Macy’s department store…

But, to really find out how Crumpet fares through the holiday season, you’ll have to see the play yourself.

The Santaland Diaries plays at ZACH through December 30. Purchase tickets online; prices start at $48.

Cover photo Kirk Tuck