While the Guthrie's annual staging of A Christmas Carol tends to garner an affectionate share of holiday cheer, a decidedly less-reverent work has quietly become a counter tradition for those feeling jaded by commercialized mirth. Like a 100-proof shot of eggnog, The Santaland Diaries is an intoxicating concoction that initially burns with cynical wit before begrudgingly giving way to a sweeter aftertaste. Based on humorist David Sedaris's true-life yuletide trauma, the play follows a young man whose desperate need for holiday cash compels him to accept a temp job portraying an elf at Macy's gloriously gaudy Santaland, a kitschy, faux-winter wonderland populated by an endless array of shouting parents, manic-depressive children, and clinically antisocial Santas. But while the anecdotes are sharply delivered, Sedaris's sympathetic telling keeps the narrative from ever being contemptuous. Look closer, and it's even possible to discern some outright affection for the season, a fact that has made Frank Theatre's yearly production a highlight of the Twin Cities holiday season. With Joe Leary returning as Crumpet the Elf, Santaland has packaged enough acidic humor to make even the meanest of scrooges crack a delightfully wicked grin.
Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 26, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 27, 2 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 1, 8 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 2, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 4, 2 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 8, 8 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 9, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 11, 2 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 15, 8 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 18, 2 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Starts: Nov. 25. Continues through Dec. 30, 2011