Review: The Santaland Diaries at Peterborough Players

Angelica Potter 

  • OnStage Massachusetts Critic

For over eighty years, Peterborough Players has been presenting professional theatre during the summer months. This year they have added a winter season with three plays taking the stage in December and February. Their inaugural winter season kicks off the holidays with a very entertaining one-man play entitled The Santaland Diaries. Directed by Gus Kaikkonen, it stars Kraig Swartz in the role of Santaland elf: “Crumpet”. Originally written by David Sedaris and adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello, it is the comedic true-life tale of Sedaris’ two-year stint as a Macy’s store elf. In the play, Crumpet recounts to the audience his experience as a Macy’s Santaland elf in the weeks leading up to Christmas. For audience members who have ever worked in retail during the holidays, or even gone to the mall and have witnessed the craziness that ensues, this play will hilariously bring back memories of all the delightful and horrifying aspects of the holiday season. 
Designed by director Gus Kaikkonen and props designer Jessica Ayala, the simple, yet detailed set includes a Christmas tree, lockers, toys, a big chair and a large video screen that changes pictures depending on the scene. String lights hang above the stage as well as over the gift boxes and stuffed animals. It wasn’t hard to imagine Santaland as Crumpet describes it and tells us stories of his daily encounters. 

Kraig Swartz has the wonderful ability to alter his vocalizations and characterizations to shift from playing Crumpet to a nasty Santa, an overbearing parent, a confused foreigner, misbehaving children and many more. He easily engages the audience and draws us into his story from the start. His performance is so realistic that he makes it easy to forget we are in a theatre watching a play. Swartz has spot on comedic timing and facial expressions that perfectly match each of the tales he tells. He delivered a highly enjoyable performance that had the audience chuckling throughout. 

With each anecdote we find ourselves laughing because of the inalienable truth behind it. We have witnessed the scenes Crumpet describes, those filled with obnoxious children and intensely pushy parents. While the show is very amusing, it is also incredibly relatable and that’s what makes it a great adult’s night out. When you attend this production you’ll be able to sit back, relax, have a good laugh and maybe even leave the theatre with renewed holiday spirit. © This production is rated PG-13 and is not recommended for children.  The Santaland Diaries plays on the Peterborough Players stage, 55 Hadley Road, Peterborough, NH, until December 17th. For tickets call the box office at 603-924-7585 or check out

Photo credit: Kraig Swartz as "Crumpet". Photo courtesy Will Howell. 

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