Wade McCollum is one of the select few performers in Portland that makes whatever performance he's in one worth seeing. One of the most entertaining and likable people on stage in Portland, McCollum consistently delivers exciting and engaging performances well worth the price of admission. With Portland Center Stage's production of David Sedaris' The Santaland Diaries we get just over an hour of pure McCollum.
The Santaland Diaries follows one fatefully holiday season when Sedaris decided to work as "Crumpet" an elf in Macy's New York Santaland. The play takes place during Sedaris' leaner starving artist period, long before he became a household name for his dry, witty and offen askewed humor. McCollum does an excellent job of capturing Sedaris' wit and humor while making his performance feel very real and immediate. During the first part of the monologue McCollum reaches out to the audience to directly connect what he's saying with people in the crowd. He acts more like a guy telling a wild tale at a party than someone on a stage.
As the piece continues more and more characters enter the story and McCollum literally embodies each with pitch perfect vocal and facial technique. McCollum does more than impersonate people he channels them and this makes this one man show feel like it's populated by an entire cast of characters. One of the risks of McCollum's Jim Carrey like talent is that he'd get so lost in all the characters he'd lose the sincere undertone of the piece. McCollum seems keenly aware of this and adeptly plays a wide range of emotional notes throughout the piece, ultimately leading a crescendo of emotion that feels as genuine and sincere as if it had really happened to McCollum himself.
Sedaris' piece itself is far from perfect. There are definite highs and lows to it. The closer the piece gets to Christmas Eve the more rushed and muddled it becomes. But it does finally hit its mark as it covers the flood of last minute Christmas shoppers all clamoring for their chance to hang with Santa. If you aren't a fan of One Life To Live (which I am not) there are a good number of jokes and references which will go right over your head.
The real reason to see The Santaland Diaries isn't really for David Sedaris' humor or even because it's a nice holiday tale, it's Wade McCollum. McCollum is so eminently entertaining, any time he steps on stage with this kind of electric energy it's absolutely worth seeing and The Santaland Diaries is no exception.
The Santaland Diaries runs through January 2nd at Portland Center Stage. Tickets $44-$49. Due to demand the show won't have any rush tickets.
For More info on The Santaland Diaries with Wade McCollum: