Review: THE SANTALAND DIARIES at Goodman Theatre

Review: THE SANTALAND DIARIES at Goodman Theatre

The ceaselessly cynical Crumpet the Elf has returned to Goodman Theatre for the second year in a row. This year Steven Strafford takes the lead in David Sedaris’s THE SANTALAND DIARIES under the direction of Steve Scott. While Strafford’s take on David/Crumpet remains as foul-mouthed and blunt as ever, the actor’s take on the role has some real vulnerability. Strafford gives us the sense that Crumpet wears his cynicism like armor, using it as a defense mechanism to combat his loneliness and discontentment with his current career status (Crumpet’s declaration that being an elf seems like a “terrifying” job opportunity rings especially true here). Although Strafford’s Crumpet has a deft emotional center, he still never compromises on the humor—but his delivery is smartly such that audiences may land on different moments as the funniest in Sedaris’s text (adapted by Joe Mantello for the stage). 

Crumpet once again occupies Kevin Depinet’s technicolor set this season with clean lines, bright colors, and a cheeky vibe that seems far more pleasant than the Macy’s Santaland the character describes. Strafford dons Rachel Lambert’s elf costume with aplomb, making a particularly amusing show of the first time he reveals the absurd outfit. 

Strafford makes the elf wryly observational, delivering his many thoughts on the visitors Santaland2019.jpgand fellow elves at Santaland with a straightforwardness that does not skirt around the frankness of his comments. He swears like a sailor, but this year’s version of the script does make a shift to the most outdated and offensive piece of language in the script. Though THE SANTALAND DIARIES is still very much a show “for mature elves only,” that tweak makes it more palatable for 2019 audiences. Crumpet’s crassness and unabashed willingness to share precisely what’s on his mind are qualities Strafford embodies on the whole, but that change makes that all the more welcome in this year’s edition. 

For audiences looking for some off-kilter and funny holiday fare, Strafford’s portrayal of Crumpet certainly hits the spot. 

THE SANTALAND DIARIES runs through December 29 in Goodman Theatre’s Owen Theatre, 170 North Dearborn. Tickets are $25-$67. Visit

Photo Credit: Cody Nieset

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