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The Santaland Diaries The Joe Mantello adaptation of David Sedaris's recounting of his stint as Crumpet the Elf, a holiday job at Macy's in New York City, returns to amuse us with the underside of the Christmas Spirit. The set is a square, anchored at one corner by a giant red Christmas ornament and at another by several life-size penguins, and another by a chair into which an exhausted Crumpet crumples at times, only to spring alert as he returns to the demanding duties of Santaland. Todd Waite is the sole inhabitant of the stage, and must be the tallest elf in Elfdom, but that matters little as he is a master at the fixed stare of consternation and adept at the double take of disbelief at the horrors beneath the white cotton snow. His expressive face lets us see in no uncertain terms what is going on, and what may be lost in nuance is gained by the explicitness of his delivery. His unflagging energy well serves this play of about an hour, and he delivers in spades the growing sense of panic as the shopping season crests like a tsunami. The humor is rich, and there is a lot of it, and the discovery that Santa is an anagram for Satan leads to some original and amusing insights. It is directed by David Cromer, who keeps the pace dynamic and the humor flowing. No Christmas is complete without an Elf, and Todd Waite fills the gap admirably as he captures the dark and highly original humor of The Santaland Diaries. Through December 31. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas, 713-220-5700. — JJT

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