NOW PLAYING: ‘Christmas show for grown-ups’

Jeff Sargent plays a frustrated Macy’s Department Store elf in The Santaland Diaries (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

For those looking to see a lighthearted production that puts the audience into the holiday spirit, this play might not be for you. 

However, if you’re in the mood something that features some off-color humor about what it’s like work at a department store during the holiday season, then Keizer Homegrown Theater’s rendition of the The Santaland Diaries might be just what you’re looking for. 

Performances are at 7 p.m. on Fridays, Dec. 6 and 13 and Saturday, Dec. 7. Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. will be on Dec. 8 and 15. On Saturday, Dec. 14, the performance will start at 5 p.m.— which will give people the opportunity to walk down to River Road and enjoy the Keizer Holiday Lights Parade at 7 p.m.

Traditionally, Keizer Homegrown Theater has family-friendly productions fill up the majority of their season. However, Linda Baker, who is the founder of the theater and director of the show, decided to go in a different direction for the final program of the year.

“I just thought it would be fun to do a Christmas show for grown-ups. How many candy cane and gingerbread shows can you really go see?” Baker said of the PG-13 show that features some adult language and crude humor.

“It’s clever and raw and I think it’s a nice antidote to all the sugar we get during this time of year.”

The Santaland Diaries is based on a comedic essay by David Sedaris, which highlights his time working as a Christmas elf at Macy’s Department Store.

The essay was originally read by Sedaris on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition in 1992. In 1996, theater actor Joe Mantello adapted the essay into a one-man stage show.

“It definitely makes fun of the commercialism of Christmas, which I think we all can appreciate,” said Jeff Sargent, who will be playing the role of the elf. 

In the show, Sargent is a struggling actor who decides to take a job as an elf at Macy’s, where he takes on a series of roles in Santa’s workshop.

The job is just humiliating at first, but as he witnesses thousands of people pour into the store day after day, Sargent takes out his frustrations on parents and kids alike, which causes hilarity to ensue. 

“It just becomes one crazy and ridiculous circumstance after another. He’s a guy that definitely has a sense of humor, but he’s also very snarky. That’s one of the hallmarks of the show,” Sargent said. 

“He becomes progressively more cynical about the Christmas experience. But, like any good play or writing, there is a resolution to it. It just might not be what you expect.”

The task of doing a one-man show isn’t small — Sargent has been rehearsing lines since the summer. This is also the first time Sargent will be performing in a one-man show. But even though he’s been taken out of his comfort zone a little, Sargent believes that he and Baker have created something worthwhile. 

“Doing something like this is an enormous challenge for an actor. I’ve never done anything like it,” Sargent said. “But it’s been great because I’m the kind of actor that will start playing with the script and see where it goes. I really trust directors and I really trust Linda, because I’ve seen what she can do. It’s been a very satisfying collaborative experience, because I can tell the difference from where we started to where we are now.” 

If you have ever experienced waiting in line to see Santa or can relate with the hectic mentality of holiday shopping, Baker believes you’ll love The Santaland Diaries, a show that provides a comedic take on the ridiculousness that can unfold during the holidays, 

“It’s a perfect evening out. Anyone who has ever taken their kid to see Santa will appreciate this.” Baker said. “So many of the situations involve parents with their children, and anybody who has had young children will be able to relate to some of these situations and how absurd they are.”