“If you think you’re boring an audience go slower, not faster”, NPR quotes composer Gustav Mahler. Although he was speaking of symphonic performance, the same could be said of stage acting. Many featured actors on Dallas stages seem to think acting “louder and faster” accomplishes “with energy and focus” and will best hold an audience’s attention. In the case of local actor and comic dynamo Nye Cooper, he illustrates Mahler’s point with grace and style. Cooper is currently performing the one-man show The SantaLand Diaries as a late night holiday offering for adults at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. Sit back and relish the off-kilter sled-ride he effortlessly slides you down.
Written by master national humorist David Sedaris, The SantaLand Diaries exists as a wry, jaundiced, hyperbolic, sarcastic, jaded, spot-on take on that most ludicrous example of consumerist holiday nonsense, “the mega retailer Santaland experience.” The main character, a down and out New York actor, accepts a holiday job as an elf called Crumpet in one such nauseating example of traditional weirdness. From a tinsel-laden set decorated to look like a Santa’s House he brings his daily experiences to life, in graphic and often grossly detailed terms. It’s a real hoot for a sophisticated audience, welcome relief from the saccharine plethora of Tiny Tims and dancing Nutcrackers foisted upon us every holiday season. Hohoho. Humbugs, unite.
Now about Mr. Cooper. He enters, slouching, through the audience, and strolls apathetically up onto the stage. We know his character has never done anything with enthusiasm or energy in its life. He mournfully proceeds to regale us with the how and why and wherefore of becoming and being Elf Crumpet. Quietly, reflectively, committed to loser/ slacker status, vacant glassy-staring eyes wide open: the funny lines gently float off his tongue like decadent wisps of last night’s marijuana smoke curling up from an overly full ashtray. Cooper plods and drags himself about in droll ennui, keeping the audience firmly planted in the palm of his capable hand and in almost uncontrollable stitches of laughter from start to finish. It’s a deplorably masterful script–an equally depraved, thoroughly enjoyable performance, ably directed by the elegant, soft-spoken, who would have guessed! Coy Covington. Maybe it was his stint as a Singing Sugarplum at Macy’s in New York that makes him uniquely qualified to direct this.
Humbugs, unite. You have your call to action! Get your butts out there and support the divine messenger.
The SantaLand Diaries runs December 5 – 28, 2008.
Regular performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 11 p.m., Sundays at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $12, available online.
Location: 5601 Sears St., Dallas, TX 75206 (one block west of lower Greenville, behind the former Arcadia Theatre).
Visit CTD’s website for tickets, directions: http://www.contemporarytheatreofdallas.com.
The SantaLand Diaries includes adult language and mature themes.