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The Santaland Diaries 
The Goodman Theatre debut of David Sedaris' comedic story offers theatergoers another holiday classic
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   MATT Crowle has become one of the most versatile personalities in Chicago theater, and he has added a new level of versatility to his profile with his entertaining role in the Christmas-related production of The Santaland Diaries, running through December 30 at the Goodman Theatre.
   In what could be Crowle’s most demanding role in the one-man show, he describes––in a funny, illuminating, straight-to-the-point fashion––a special day at Macy’s Santaland, where Crumpet, the not-so-happy department store elf, talks about his interactions with Santa, kids, parents and all that surrounds the holiday season. “You can be an entrance elf, a water-cooler elf, a bridge elf, train elf, maze elf, island elf, magic-window elf, usher elf, cash-register elf or exit elf,” Crowle says as Crumpet. “I [became] a magic-window elf.”
   The delightfully irreverent Christmas classic reveals Crowle’s abundant talents in his memorable portrayal as a struggling thirtysomething actor who was in desperate need of a job and how he realized that he couldn’t turn down the offer to become an elf at the legendary department store.
   The Santaland Diaries actually is the real-life story of writer David Sedaris, who has become a bestselling writer and humorist. The diaries highlight Sedaris’ two Christmas seasons working as an elf at Macy’s on New York’s Herald Square. That experience was first presented as an essay on National Public Radio in 1992. The reading proved to be so popular that it was later adapted by Joe Mantello as a one-act stage production and premiered at Atlantic Theater Company in 1996. Described as a show “for mature elves,” the show has been presented throughout the nation for the past two decades.
   Crowle's embrace of the role has all the energy of a meeting between two lost friends. Not surprising from a Jeff Award-winner who has succeeded as an actor, choreographer and director in numerous productions such as Bye Bye, BirdieSouth PacificSingin’ in the RainWhite ChristmasMary PoppinsDoctor DolittleA Funny Thing Happened, Monty Python’s SpamalotYoung Frankenstein and Hello, Dolly.  
    In The Santaland Diaries, directed by Goodman’s Artistic Associate Steve Scott, the perfect harmony between actor and director is clearly evident, and the set designed by Kevin Depinet is “Christmasy,” inviting and sets the tone for the holiday season––all of which makes Crumpet’s story more appealing and sends theatergoers home with smiles on their faces.  
––Walter Leavy
For more information, go to www.goodmantheatre.org. Tickets are $15-$45 (subject to change). For groups of 10 or more, call 312/443-3820.
Photograph by Erik Scanlon
Matt Crowle as
"Crumpet the Elf"