Naughty Elves and Grumpy Gulf-Islanders: Holiday Comedies for Grinches in Vancouver

Photo by David Cooper. Courtesy of Arts Club.

Photo by David Cooper. Courtesy of Arts Club.

There’s snow on the North Shore Mountains. It gets dark before you leave work. The Bay is piping in Christmas music.  It’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays in Vancouver.

To help ease even the grinchiest among us into the holiday spirit, the Arts Club Theatre Company is premiering two wickedly funny and seriously offbeat Christmas-themed productions later this month: David Sedaris’ classic Santaland Diaries and the homegrown favourite It’s Snowing on Saltspring.

Santaland Diaries, based on Sedaris’ true short story, documents the bleak December he spent working as an elf at a Macy’s Santaland display in Manhattan.  A 33-year-old, seriously underemployed writer at the time, Sedaris reluctantly takes the job and discovers his own brand of holiday Hell.  Wicked, sarcastic and decidedly un-politically correct, this one-man show is the perfect anecdote to sugar-coated holiday productions.

Day after day, Sedaris contends with thousands of screaming children and impatient parents as the line to see Santa grows longer and longer.  Through grit and perseverance, he manages to work his way up the candy-cane ladder, from lowly “Vomit Corner Elf” to “Water Cooler Elf” and finally prestigious “Cash Register Elf.”  Along the way, he learns a bit – but not too much – about the true meaning of the holidays.

Starring multi-talented comic actor Toby Berner, Santaland Diaries runs Nov. 21-Dec. 21 at the Revue Stage on Granville Island.  Tickets start at $29.

For a local take on the holidays – and how to survive them – check out the much loved classic It’s Snowing on Saltspring.  Act I picks up on Christmas Eve on the little Gulf Island, known for its artisans, farmers markets and eccentric, occasionally off-the-grid local residents.  Inside the home of disenchanted Bill Bannister, however, the stockings certainly aren’t hung by the chimney with care.

A first-class grinch, Bill wallows in self-pity, gorging himself on marshmallows on Christmas Eve while his wife tries to get him out of his funk.  Even a pair of tie-dyed neighbours – who burst in with a bottle of champagne and some decidedly off-colour jokes – can’t rouse him.   That’s when the Big Man in Red has to take things into his own hands.

Through some magical intervention, Bill is whisked away to the North Pole by Santa Claus himself.  Up at Santa’s workshop, everyone talks in rhyming lines, elves with pig noses run the show and there’s even a talking Rudolph to liven things up.  First staged in 1985, It’s Snowing on Saltspring has been thoughtfully updated to Christmas 2013, without sacrificing any of the goofy humour of the original.

Penned and updated by Vancouver’s own Nicola Cavendish, It’s Snowing on Saltspring runs Nov. 28-Dec. 28 on the Granville Island Stage.  Tickets start at $29.

Any fans of Santaland Diaries or It’s Snowing on Saltspring? Let us know below.  

For more updates on Vancouver and beyond, follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza.  

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