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Elf Life 

Christmas play shows the grumpy side of Santa's little helpers.

As you stroll through the malls, take a look at Santa and his elves while they await streams of wishful children. Sure, Saint Nick and his minions look happy, but are they? Cleveland Public Theatre's third holiday run of The Santaland Diaries, Joe Montello's adaptation of satirist David Sedaris' short story, takes a hard look at the way revelers treat the season. "I think that we are so overwhelmed with the holidays and the spirit that it's supposed to engender, we forget in some ways what it's really about," says Brian Bethune, the show's director. The play recounts Sedaris' stint at Macy's as the merry elf Crumpet. The sardonic account shows the equally dark and funny sides of the Santa-visit ritual, from crying toddlers unwilling to smile for the camera to Sedaris threatening an unruly child that Santa will take away all of his parents' appliances if he doesn't shut up. "It becomes this really commercial nightmare," says Bethune. "I can't think of anything that epitomizes it more than Santaland itself."Consumerism, racism, and greed all take licks at the expense of the holiday in this acerbic classic. "It's not your rosy, happy Christmas story," says Bethune. "It's more what Christmas really is." The curtain rises at 3 p.m. Sundays and 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Saturday, December 22, at Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Avenue. Tickets are $10 to $18. Call 216-631-2727 or visit
Sundays, 3 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: Dec. 9. Continues through Dec. 22, 2007

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