Martin Burke and The Santaland Diaries return to Zach, this time with a naughty-but-nice musical number to kick things off.
The Santaland Diaries is David Sedaris’s irreverent play about a man who moves to New York, and, desperate for work, toils as a Christmas elf at Macy’s. (“It won’t be quite as sad as standing on some street corner dressed as a french fry,” he decides.) Although the laugh-out-loud show is performed in cities across America this time of year, Austin has a beloved attachment to it because of actor Martin Burke, who owns the part of Crumpet, the aforementioned elf, in an irresistibly funny way. He starred in the play from its Austin debut in 1998 until 2009, returning occasionally after that. He’s back this year, and with a bonus performance: He and fellow actor Meredith McCall will perform a cabaret of classic holiday songs before the play begins.
How does it feel to play America’s favorite nasty elf? “Santaland created my career in this city, which I’m forever thankful for,” Burke says. “I’m a Christmas staple!”
Drink less Christmas cheer, please. Burke knew the script so well that he used to ad-lib, including chasing audience members who needed to use the restroom out of the theater. That ended after Burke called out an audience member who had stood up in the middle of the show. When he asked the man where he was going, the 6-foot-8 gentleman, who had apparently overindulged, screamed Burke’s name three times. “Everybody was laughing and thought it was so funny,” recalls Burke, “but I was terrified!”
Looking for the magic of Christmas? Stay away from large department stores. One of Burke’s favorite moments in the play occurs when a pushy mom, who has already asked Crumpet a million questions, wants to find the line for the ladies’ bathroom. “I think it’s the line with all the women in it,” the elf says. To which the mom replies: “I’m going to have you fired.” His retort: “Go ahead, be my guest. I’m wearing a green velvet costume; it doesn’t get any worse than this.” November 25–December 27. On the Whisenhunt Stage at Zach Theatre, 1510 Toomey Road, 512-476-0541