By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Not every theatergoer will have experienced Cooper's Crumpet—as charming but bitterly cynical a malcontent as ever donned the candy-striped elfin tights—so they won't see right away why Sedaris' character and the material, adapted for the New York stage by Joe Mantello, just aren't good fits for Wold. Cooper looked and sounded perfect for the part, using his Grinchy eyebrows to punctuate the best lines in Sedaris' jaundiced take on the maelstrom that is Macy's in December. When he hopped up into the oversized armchair centerstage to smoke a cig, he was an elf on the edge of a nervous breakdown—"Ever notice that 'Santa' is an anagram for 'Satan'?" he'd growl—and it was pee-the-knickers hilarious.
The bulkier Wold, a character actor who co-starred on the big stage at WaterTower in Take Me Out and Into the Woods, is a comic performer more in the Red Skelton mold. No arched brows and deadpan smirks. No cigarettes. Wold's gentle puppy-dog looks say "love me, please," and his drooping shoulders seem to signal defeat instead of defiance. Cooper's Crumpet delighted in acting the killjoy to the squirmy brats and pushy moms waiting to see St. Nick. Wold's wants to kill them with kindness.
Wold does fine with the quiet, poignant sections of The Santaland Diaries, talking about the handicapped kids and the for-hire Santa who brings a sweet spark of magic to his job, but he doesn't mine the laugh potential in a show aimed at dumping some much-needed lumps of coal on the overcommercialization of Christmas.