The good kind of holiday drama

The cast of It's snowing on Saltspring - Photo by David Cooper

Holiday entertainment isn’t just about the  Hollywood blockbusters and Love Actually commandeering cable television. For those looking for fresh entertainment ideas this season, ArtsClub Theatre currently has two shows on the go and both productions take a different spin on the classic Christmas stories.

 

It’s Snowing in Saltspring

(Now playing until December 28 on the Granville Island Stage)

 

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Deborah Williams, Beatrice Zeilinger and Juno Rinaldi (photo by David Cooper)

 

It’s Snowing in Saltspring tells the story of a disillusioned Saltspring resident’s adventure to get his holiday spirit back. Originally written in 1985, the play was a first attempt at a Christmas script for the 27-year-old Vancouver actress Nicola Cavendish. After winning the hearts of audiences at the premiere, ArtsClub Theatre presents an updated version of the play with a new cast but the same ability to pull on those heartstrings as the original.

 

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Deborah Williams, Juno Rinaldi and Joel Wirkkunen. (photo by David Cooper)

 

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Joel Wirkkunen and Andrew McNee (photo by David Cooper)

 

 

The Santaland Diaries

Now playing until December 21, on the Revue Stage

 

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(Photo by Mellisa Taylor)

You might be familiar with the following high school experience: Upon entering a classroom in December, you have to suppress a squeal of delight when you see a TV set up in the front. “Score! Movie day!” Then you and your friends would settle into your seats in anticipation of the unexpected entertainment. But the joke’s on you: instead of the scheduled directed study which, in hindsight, you could have used to prepare for that math final, you and your classmates get to watch Elf for the fifteenth time that month.

The Santaland Diaries is a shocking confessional from a mercilessly cynical elf Crumpet that might just redeem all those hours wincing at Will Ferrell’s striped tights. Link’s own Melissa Taylor checked out the play, and had an elfin’ good time.

 

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Toby Berner  as Crumpet (photo by David Cooper)

Most holiday shows share the same sentiments: love, family, and the true meaning of Christmas. But The Santaland Diaries is not your typical holiday production. The ArtsClub provides a disclaimer for the show, warning it is more naughty than nice while also promising “an elfin good time.” Written by popular satirist David Sedaris and adapted for stage by Joe Mantello, The Santaland Diaries tells the tale of Crumpet, an elf at Macy’s popular Santaland spectacle.

The one-man show takes the audience on an amusing journey from the process of becoming an elf to the various posts one can occupy within Santaland.  Nothing is off-limits as Crumpet (portrayed by Toby Berner) hilariously shares the ugly truth about Santaland and its guests. A bare stage, decorated only with a couple of boxes, forces the audience to use their imagination to envision Santaland. Despite the lack of a set, Berner paints a perfect picture of the wintery display and steals the show with his uproarious anecdotes.

 

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(photo by David Cooper)

Though the show is anything but politically correct or family-friendly, it does have its heartwarming moments.  Just when the audience begins to question whether Crumpet has any compassion left after slaving in the trenches of Santaland, he talks about the light he sees in the eyes of children who still believe in the magic of Christmas.  The fleeting thought is quickly covered up with sarcastic musings, but it is still successful at giving theatre-goers a dose of tradition holiday sentiment.