The night-club ambiance of Sycamore Rouge is just right for David Sedaris' sarcastic, sardonic, one-act plays, “Santaland Diaries” and “Season's Greetings.” Both are typical of the writer's sharp humor, contemporaneously lauding and bashing two classic Christmas traditions: a visit to a department-store Santa and the writing of the Christmas letter.
Tommy Schoffler delights as the personification of a 33-year-old Sedaris describing a stint as an elf in the Santaland at Macy's on Harold Square in Manhattan. He gleefully rolls out a yarn about the ugliness and beauty of the human condition on Jason Winebarger's excellent set while keeping the audience in the palm of his green-velvet-cuffed hand. His imitation of Sedaris singing “Silent Night” in the style of Billie Holiday is not to be missed.
Jacqueline Jones is hilarious as the middle-class Jocelyn, matriarch of the Dunbar family, who's doing her best to create a cheerful holiday letter despite an unusually humiliating year. Jones is a seasoned pro who brings this character to convincing life.
Some of the irony of the evening lies in the perspective of the work. Although the plays were first performed in the late 1990s, there are references to economic recession and the swine flu, reminding us that the critical topics in our lives are cyclical and perpetual. There will always be economic rotations, poor parenting choices, a Santaland and people who feel they must gloss things over no matter how unpalatable they truly are. But Sedaris forgives humanity in the end, as seen through the story of the good Santa and Jocelyn's plea for help, leaving one with a sense of hope for humanity.
“Santaland Diaries” and “Season's Greetings” play at Sycamore Rouge on Fridays through Sundays through Dec. 27. Tickets $18-$22. For information call 804-957-5707 or visit www.sycamorerouge.org.