by Lenise Willis

From turkey to merry grumbling

It’s Thanksgiving week, which probably means the in-laws and extended family are here. Or you’re visiting and sleeping in your niece’s little-princess bedroom, longing for some alone time – some you time – and some adult time. The holidays are here and you need an escape. Hold on to that feeling because The Santaland Diaries is just the naughty getaway you’ve been looking for.

Continuing an annual tradition for the Triad, Paper Lantern Theatre Company is bringing back its mischievous, pottymouthed elf in its production of The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris.

“People seem to appreciate an adult-themed Christmas play,” said Beth Ritson, Paper Lantern co-founder. “If it’s a choice of naughty or nice, sometimes we would just like a little naughty to offset the nice.”

The play, running in Triad Stage’s intimate café, the UpStage Cabaret, is a satirical comedy, in which a mall elf, Crumpet, gripes and complains about the commercial holiday, spoiled kids and irate parents.

“It’s a great opportunity to be with friends or family, share a beverage of choice, laugh a lot and have a shared experience during the holiday season without the mention of Rudolph, the mall and what we’re buying for each other,” Ritson said. “It’s a great break from the demands that come along with the holidays.”

Performing the one-man show is Marc Tumminelli, owner of Broadway Workshop, a New York musical theatre and acting studio for young artists. Tumminelli has worked with Patti LuPone in Gypsy, as well as many theaters across the US.

“We seem to be able to entice the most wonderfully talented actors to portray Crumpet,” Ritson said. “I think the challenge of doing The Santaland Diaries is an undertaking that attracts actors of a high caliber.”

Tumminelli admits that the scariest part about his role is simply memorizing the 27-page monologue. “I have been living with this script since mid-September,” he said.

“It’s so interesting to do a play and not have a scene partner but the great thing about Santaland is the audience really becomes your scene partners, and if they’re game and ready for a good time, it can be a really fun night at the theater where anything can happen”¦and does.”

So who exactly is this disgruntled elf? Tumminelli says he’s actually a lot like himself.

“I feel like Crumpet is a lot like me; we see things the same way,” Tumminelli said. “My favorite thing to do in the world is tell stories at parties or at dinner. That is what Crumpet lives for. He loves to share the way he sees the world. He is 100 percent positive that his view on things is correct and he can’t wait to dish with people. And he is ready to make fun of himself first, so I think that puts people at ease. I would totally be friends with Crumpet in real life.”

Besides the crude and charismatic elf, it’s also the witty, yet honest writing of the playwright that seems to draw people to the show.


“Folks in North Carolina treasure David Sedaris and his witty, funny outlook on life””and in particular the holidays,” Ritson said. “He has such a wonderfully unique voice.”

“Every one of the stories in this play has the ability to make the audience or the reader cry out laughing,” Tumminelli added. “Christmas does something to people, they get insane with making sure everything is perfect and they try so hard to live their life like they are in a perfect holiday snow globe; this play takes that perfect picture and throws it against the wall. It’s the real Christmas.”

So if you need a break from the stress this holiday, or simply want a good, dirty laugh, then check out this one-man show. It’s personally my favorite holiday tradition and it’s a great way to hang out with your adult friends.

“Ultimately it’s a very sweet story and even if you have seen it before you are going to get a totally different play with every actor who takes it on,” Tumminelli continued. “I think that makes for an amazing little gem of a play but also makes for a really great night at the theater””for adults.” !


Paper Lantern Theatre Company’s The Santaland Diaries runs Dec. 4-20 in the Triad Stage UpStage Cabaret, 232 S. Elm St., Greensboro. Tickets are $18-$20 depending on performance date. For tickets or more information visit or, or call 272-0160. Show is recommended for adults only.