Taking the Sweet With the Bitter
David Sedaris tells us he’s 33 years old, yearning for a soap opera spot on TV, just $20 away from walking dogs and is so desperate he’ll take a job at Macy’s as a Christmas elf, if he can get it. But we also know right away, looking at the 1960s-swank living room set with its glistening Manhattan skyline, that Sedaris survived Macy’s, wrote a terrifically funny and cranky and often dark diary about his weeks there, and now, in this adaptation by Joe Mantello, directed at Shakepeare & Company by Tony Simotes, we have one jolly holiday tale. That’s also due to Ryan Winkles, the most elfin Sedaris I’ve seen in what is as regular a Christmastime treat, these days, as “The Nutcracker.” Winkles, like so many of his fellows at Shakespeare & Company, is tremendously agile, physically and verbally. And in the intimate Bernstein Theatre, his charm reaches audiences instantly. He eyes his people, offers them candy and dishes up wicked stories about elf training, Santaland Santas, confused foreigners and parents who terrorize their offspring into cuddling up to the big fat guy in a beard and red suit. Everyone takes a hit.So, yes, there is a mean streak here. But Winkles’ Sedaris is dear without saccharine and deserves the good fortune that surrounds his post elf days. “The Santaland Diaries” runs at Shakepeare & Company in Lenox, MA, through Dec. 30. For tickets: 413-637-3353; www.shakespeare.org.