Toby Berner in Santaland Diaries

It’s New York City, 1991, heading into the holiday shopping season at Macy’s Herald Square, the busiest department store in the Big Apple. Enter Crumpet, a soap opera-starstruck gay elf, who for the next 80 minutes will entertain you with tales of surviving Santaland.

Toby Berner in Santaland Diaries

Studio 58 graduate Toby Berner stars in the Arts Club Theatre’s Santaland Diaries, a one-man campy monologue written by David Sedaris. Known for his wicked sense of humour, Sedaris’ essay about his trials and tribulations as an elf first emerged on NPR’s Morning Edition. The piece was a success, leading the author to publish it in both Barrel Fever and Holidays on Ice.

In Santaland Diaries, all manner of working conditions are discussed, from elf training right through to the elves that each play a role in a hectic department store Santaland. Toby starts the show wearing a sweater and slacks, later transforming into his elf costume as the antics get underway.

Toby Berner in Santaland Diaries

It’s a treat to watch Berner’s comic brilliance and detail-rich storytelling, made all the more hysterical while donning an elf suit. His daily account leading up to Christmas Eve will leave you laughing out of your seat, with tales of becoming an elf right through to dealing with irate customers who will stop at nothing to make the Santa photo session perfect for their kids (the younger ones mostly frightened of the Man in Red to begin with).

Various elf rules and roles are brought to the forefront — who knew there was so much to being a proper elf during the holidays? And what exactly makes for a proper Santa? These answers await audiences to Berner’s one-elf show.

Set and Lighting Designer Ted Roberts does a fabulous job through simple white revolving boxes and other props to bring the play to life without a single Christmas tree ever making it on stage. William Moysey’s sound design is well-engineered to add several effects to the show, adding texture to Berner’s anecdotes and one-liners.

This elf’s seen it all and is ready to share it with you. We’re certain that the Arts Club’s Santaland Diaries will put you in the holiday spirit.

Santaland Diaries continues through December 21 at the Revue Stage on Granville Island. Photos by David Cooper.

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