This year may well be remembered as the year that Jesse R. Gephart finally got his due as one of the Triangle’s finest comic actors. This spring, he earned accolades as conniving presidential chief of staff Archer Brown in Theatre in the Park’s production of David Mamet’s November, starring Ira David Wood III as the most corrupt occupant of the Oval Office since Richard Milhous Nixon.
This summer, Gephart stole the show as runaway stripper Pippi’s crazed Magic Marker-sniffing, gun-toting boyfriend Duke in Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy’s presentation of The Great American Trailer Park Musical. And just last week he had TIP audiences in stitches once again as he repeated his knee-slapping 2006 performance in the title role of out-of-work and increasingly desperate actor David Sedaris and his evil twin Crumpet in Macy’s SantaLand in Automatic Vaudeville and Theatre in the Park‘s 2010 co-production of The SantaLand Diaries.
Former Raleigh resident, National Public Radio commentator, and best-selling author David Sedaris’ snarky PG-13-rated autobiographical reminiscences of his temporary full-time job as an elf in Macy’s SantaLand in New York City began life as a sardonic NPR commentary in 1992. In 1996, Joe Mantello adapted Sedaris’ vitriolic comments for the stage; and at Christmastime in the year 2000, Gephart’s old friend and mentor New York actor Eric Woodall first performed The SantaLand Diaries in the Triangle.
After his warmly applauded 2006 performance as David/Crumpet, directed with brio by his good friend and teacher Maggie Rasnick, Jesse Gephart has fine-tuned and deepened his impersonation. His increased confidence is palpable, and he was so comfortable in the role last Saturday night that he twice stopped the show and broke character to harangue latecomers — much to the audience’s delight.
Otherwise, Gephart got the audience rolling in the aisles — and kept them there — as he channeled David Sedaris at his snarkiest, proudly sitting in the seats of the scornful and delightfully dishing on the kookiest of his fellow elves, crazed Macy’s customers, deranged Santas, and Macy’s supervisors who take themselves entirely too seriously. Thomas Mauney’s splendid set and lighting design, and Nancy Renn’s flamboyant elf costume also enhanced the 2010 encore production of The SantaLand Diaries, starring Jesse Gephart. It was the perfect antidote for all those saccharine-sweet stories of redemption. Gephart as Sedaris and his sneering alter ego Crumpet revels at being the skunk at the garden party of Christmas plays — and audiences love it!
2010 SECOND OPINION: Dec. 12, 2010 Raleigh, NC Classical Voice of North Carolina review by Julie-Kate Cooper: http://cvnc.org/reviews/2010/122010/AutoVaudeville.html. (To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Dec. 9, 2010 Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2010/12/the-santaland-diaries-stars-jesse-r-gephart/.) 2006 SECOND OPINION: Dec. 15, 2006 Raleigh, NC Classical Voice of North Carolina review by Robert W. McDowell: http://www.cvnc.org/reviews/2006/122006/SantaLand.html.
PRESENTERS: Automatic Vaudeville: N/A. Theatre in the Park: http://www.theatreinthepark.com/.
The SantaLand Diaries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SantaLand_Diaries (Wikipedia) and http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5066175 (1992 NPR reading by David Sedaris).
The Script (excerpts): http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
David Sedaris: http://www.barclayagency.com/sedaris.html (official bio courtesy the Barclay Agency), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Sedaris (Wikipedia), http://www.npr.org/programs/specials/lists/sedaris/ (National Public Radio), http://www.newyorker.com/ (essays from The New Yorker), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1358380/ (Internet Movie Database).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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