note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey
John Kuntz is Boston's Lon Chaney. Our "Man of a thousand faces" tackles a dozen or so in the stage adaptation of David Sedaris' wicked account of his stint as a Macy elf. Joe Mantello's adaptation of "The Santaland Diaries" is so close to Sedaris' short (radio) story it's almost verbatim. (Sedaris is the ex-NPR ex-patriate writer who lives in Paris "because they haven't banned smoking yet.")
Kuntz is at his best in a frenzy, driven to distraction, eyes flashing, plotting to sabotage a nasty parent or an unruly child. So many parents in line to see Santa made Sedaris' life hell that he began to see red. Satan, he tells us, is an anagram of Santa --- and lighting designer John Malinowski turns the set blood red!
Kuntz is a natural comic who can become a severe saleswoman with multiple chins (he has only one) before your very eyes. The Sedaris material, which seemed so hilarious as I read it, seems more slight on stage, and Kuntz has to keep his zaniness tied to the story. The whole evening (including another skit by Sedaris which would have overstayed its welcome without Kuntz in the role) ran a little over an hour....but a cavorting Kuntz is always worth the trip.