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By D. A. Blackburn
If the holiday season has already begun to grate on your nerves - the round-the-clock Christmas music, the crowded malls filled with crying children, the obnoxiously cheery sales clerks, etc. - Who Wants Cake? Theatre has a crafted an evening designed to bring you back into good spirits. The double bill of The SantaLand Diaries and Seasonís Greetings, both by acclaimed American humorist David Sedaris, are sure to remind you that it could always be worse.
That's not to say the shows are bad. Quite the contrary, they are well-mounted and excellently acted. But Sedaris' sardonic humor (adapted to the stage by Joe Mantello) focuses on two unique and troubled characters.
The evening's first production, The SantaLand Diaries, is widely regarded as the work that brought Sedaris to the attention of the masses. It is a semi-autobiographical tale from Sedaris' early years as an aspiring actor in New York, when becoming an elf at Macy's Santa Land seemed like a good gig. As David/Crumpet, Joe Plambeck recalls the experience in vivid detail - from the intense interview and training process, to hostile, abusive parents and a Santa who taught him the real meaning of Christmas.
Plambeck is a natural for the role, and brings Sedaris' essay to life with a very genuine and honest delivery. He transforms into an elf, before our very eyes, and performs with a sure-handed grasp of Sedaris' unique style.
In Season's Greetings, Joe Bailey proves once again that he is just as comfortable in heels as he is in sneakers. As Mrs. Dunbar, he takes the audience through one of the most troubled holiday form letters ever written. The Dunbars have had an unusual holiday season, which has included the unexpected appearance of an illegitimate half-Vietnamese daughter and the suspicious death of a crack-addicted grandchild. But these little details can't cool the warmth of the family's Christmas correspondence.
Bailey, like Plambeck, is very comfortable with Sedaris' writing, and creates a funny and charming character who'll make you grateful that your biggest problem has (hopefully) been finding a parking space at the mall.
Both productions are full of laughs, and are a sure-fire bet for fans of Sedaris' off-beat dark wit. So if the holidays have gotten you down, just think: You could be a 33-year-old elf, or be on trial for your life. This Who Wants Cake? production is sure to make the candy cane taste a little sweeter.
Who Wants Cake Theatre, The Ringwald Theatre, 22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Friday-Monday through Dec. 22. Tickets: $10-$20. For information: 248-545-5545 or www.whowantscaketheatre.com.
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