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Wil Bethmann. (Photos courtesy of Simpatika.)

Diversionary Theatre’s excellent “Legacy Revival Production” of The Santaland Diaries is a dark comedy for adults that takes shots at, while honoring, the Christmas season in equal measure.

Adapted by Joe Mantello from a David Sedaris semi-autobiographical essay, an unemployed thirty something gay actor in the 1990’s, briefly referred to as David (Wil Bethmann), decides to become a seasonal department store elf at Macy’s. One of the job requirements is to adopt an elf name. David quickly takes on the moniker Crumpet and Elisa Benzoni’s festive costume for the elf is an entertaining contrast from the casual clothing his alter ego wears.

Throughout his day, Crumpet talks directly to the audience and shares his experiences as he encounters bad parents, their children and other employees.

Sedaris humorously portrays Crumpet’s growing irritation as the countdown to Christmas gets closer and closer. His candid, and politically incorrect, observations are infused into the elf’s relatable everyman persona.

Bethmann excels in his handling of both subtle and broad humor. His rendition of the Christmas carol, “Away in a Manger,” and a speech about an anagram for Santa in particular made my face hurt from laughing so hard.

He also performs a few dramatic moments with solid earnestness, which adds depth to the monologue.

Besides directing Bethmann’s strong performance, Anthony Methvin and his crew create a festive atmosphere for the fun evening.

Though it is only a 60-minute theatrical piece, Methvin makes good use of Justin Humphres’ Christmas prop filled set, Curtis Mueller’s lively lighting and TJ Fucella’s audio, which uses memorable Noel music, including excerpts from John Williams’ score to “Home Alone.”

Wil Bethmann.

Before the play even starts, Methvin turns the evening into a merry experience. The lobby decorations, designed by Justin Beets, follow a traditional Christmas theme. After visiting the lobby, guests follow a special pathway to the theatre, and they are encouraged to take a photo with Santa Claus.

Hats off to Methvin, Beets and other members of the production team for the well-executed contributions at the University Heights theatre.

Performances are followed by Linda Libby’s HoliGay Storytime, located at the Diversionary Fritz Lounge. Although this was not a part of opening night, the actress is going to share holiday tales and songs, for about 40-minutes, throughout the run.

Even with Sedaris’ biting and sarcastic prose, the ambience and a heartfelt conclusion will resonate with Christmas lovers, as well as Scrooges, living in San Diego.

[box] Show times are Thursdays at 7:00 p.m, Fridays at 8:00 p.m, Saturdays at 8:00 p.m and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. [/box]

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Diversionary Theatre
Work 4545 Park Boulevard #101 San Diego CA 92116 USA Work Phone: 619.220.0097 Website: Diversionary Theatre website
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David Dixon

David Dixon

A fan of theatre from a young age, David Dixon began writing reviews while in middle school, for Union Tribune’s Rated G column and sdcnn.com. He was the Entertainment Editor for SDSU’s The Daily Aztec. Currently, he contributes to San Diego Community News Network, a regional reviewer for Talkin’ Broadway, an interviewer for San Diego Theatre Reviews and has won several San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards. David is a San Diego Theatre Critics Circle member, an American Theatre Critics Association member & Regional Theatre Tony Award voter.

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