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Being naughty never felt so nice

Tonight, the Thingamajig Theatre Company that has brought Pagosa Springs crowd favorites such as “Sylvia” and “Lion in Winter” unwraps its Christmas star, Crumpet the Elf in “The SantaLand Diaries.”

The show runs Dec. 15-30 at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts and is intended for mature audiences only.

The mirth and jokes bubble over in “The SantaLand Diaries.” Banished is the mawkish sentimentality of commercial Christmas, replaced instead by the story of a Macy’s elf dealing with the reality of working retail at this time of year.

Instead of a neatly-wrapped morality tale like “A Christmas Carol,” or a sweet dream like “The Nutracker,” “The SantaLand Diaries” is author and humorist David Sedaris’ recounting of his “Christmas from Hell.” In the hands of the Thingamajig Theatre Company it turns out to be one delightful barrel of laughs.

Robin Hebert stars as Crumpet, Sedaris’ elfin alter ego, who walks the audience through the entire Macy’s elf experience with the mix of self-deprecation and keen observation of the more bizarre truths of human nature that is Sedaris’ calling card.

Hebert’s narration captures the character’s laconic wit with ease. It is during moments of emotional highs and lows or, frankly, while making fun of people, that his Crumpet is a Christmas star.

From competing episodes of humiliation — what is worse, applying to be an elf, the idea you might not get chosen, being hired and having to wear tights? — to embracing the absurd nature of the job with comic rebellion (like shouting, “You can see Lady Gaga!” instead of “Santa”), Hebert knows how to milk the material, and the audience, (even in preview) for all its worth.

For instance, when Hebert’s character is putting on his elf costume for the first time, his description of each item draws a chuckle, but it is his dry delivery of its final item that drives the ridicule home.

It is not all sardonic humor though. There are a couple of times, most notably toward the end in a scene in which Crumpet is touched by an earnest Santa who really does change families’ lives, when Hebert allows us to catch a brief but palpable glimpse at what tenderness might lie beneath the character’s salty, wry veneer.

Tim Moore, who directs “The SantaLand Diaries” uses every bit of space (and then some) in PSCA’s Black Box theatre. With the audience a mere few feet away from him, Hebert still has ample space to fill. The whole production works on a large scale, which it does with a large replica of SantaLand, and many technical bells and whistles, including David Trudeau’s lighting design and Moore’s sound design.

First read on NPR in 1992 and produced for the stage in 1996 by Joe Mantello (director of Broadway’s “Wicked”), “The SantaLand Diaries” may be just a hair too young to be considered a modern classic, but, with unique characters and biting humor like this, it is well on its way.

The Thingamajig Theatre Company presents “The SantaLand Diaries” Dec. 16-30. Special Martini/Champagne Opening with pre-show music by Brooks-I begins Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. Tickets for this night are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. Tickets include a glass of champagne and hors d’oeuvres in the beautifully decorated Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts. All other performances are priced at $15 with advance reservation or $20 at the door. For further information, or to buy tickets, visit www.pagosacenter.org or call 731.SHOW.

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