Sunday, December 13, 2009
From Slayer Slidekick to Hollywood's Top Christmas Elf: Nick Brendon in Santaland Diaires
(above picture from broadwayworld.com)
One man's memories of being a Christmas elf at Macy's in New York has turned into a live theater staple that rivals "A Christmas Carol". It's called "The Santaland Diaries", and it's being perormed by regional companies all around the country.
However, to the averge Buffy fan, there's only one version this year: the Blank Theater in Hollywood, where Nicholas Brendon is bringing Christmas cheer as Crumpet.
This version has attracted a lot of attention in Southern California when it was first announced last month. The play is based on an essay by writer and humourist David Sedaris. He talks about how he got the job as a Christmas elf at Macy's,and gives his observations about the costume, the kids, the parents and all the stress of Christmas in general. Brendon, who plays Xander on Buffy, was an inspired choice to play Crumpet. The play was certain to attract fans of both Buffy and Sedaris.
In fact, tickets sold so quickly, extra performances were added. Soon, it became the hottest tcket in town.
Thanks to an air fare sale by Southwest that made going to Los Angeles slightly more expensive that taking a bus to San Francisco, I decided to check out the play. When I came on December 10th, I noticed the stage was very small. There was room for 50 chairs, including a few on stage. This is as intimate as live theater gets.
The stage has very large Christmas presents arranged as if it could be part of "Santaland". What I noticed is that there were three garish fake trees on a shelf at the top of the stage, and some stockings hung on a wall....behind some chicken wire.
Brendon starts the play standing on the stage, explaining how his character, a 31 year old man, wound up applying for a job as an elf at Macy's. We learn the inside story about elf training, employee manuals, the different styles of being jolly, the different types of Santas, and the occasional mishaps and tantrums (and that's just from the parents).
He makes full use of the stage, and even interacts with a couple of the guests. The highlight is when we see Brendon put on the Crumpet costume for the first time. It is quite a hoot.
This play could have been done as a bigger venue, like maybe the Steve Allen Theater, and it could have sold more tickets. Still, using the Blank Theater's 2nd Stage, where only 50 people can be seated at a time, really makes the play work. It's as if we're sitting in a strange version of "Santaland". Instead of waiting for Santa, we're waiting to see Crumpet, who reveals what really happens "behind closed doors", the inside story the kids or their parents never learn about.
Aside from this, Brendon also appeared in a new Chistmas movie called "One Golden Christmas." It was on ION TV this past Sunday, and will be shown again before Christmas. He plays a single dad who's about to buy a home from a family whose daughter also wants to buy the house. What they don't know, but the viewer may figure out after 20 minutes, is that they spent a summer together in the woods when both were nine. They called themselves Han and Leia for some reason, which is why a stray dog pulls out all the stops to reunite them. The only thing I didn't like is how the female lead, Andrea Roth from "Rescue Me", was so selfish at first. We later find out she's still hurting from losing her husband, and feeling guilty she hasn't kept touch with her family. Of course, there is the happy ending that's typical of holiday movies usually seen on Lifetime or the Hallmark Channel. It was great to see Nick again, and it's something we should see more often.
But seeing him up close as an elf was also unforgettable. In fact, I'm sending him a Christmas card, care of the Blank Theater, of course. It's the least I can do.