Karen Valentine, nominal star of Off-Broadway's The Santaland Diaries, got an unwelcome Christmas present when early this week her segment of the play was dropped.
Santaland started out as a pairing of two one-act monologues based on the writings of cult writer, NPR commentator, and sometime-apartment cleaner David Sedaris. "Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!", Valentine's monologue, was a 20-minute first-act curtain raiser about a woman dealing with her husband's illegitimate Vietnamese daughter. "Season's Greetings" was followed by "The Santaland Diaries," an ironic account of Sedaris' stint as a Christmas elf at Macy's, starring Timothy Olyphant.
After five preview performances of the production, "Seasons Greetings" was dropped by the mutual agreement of director/adaptor Joe Mantello, Valentine, Sedaris, and producers David Stone and Amy Nederlander-Case.
"While we all loved David's piece on the page, it became clear in performance that it wasn't working on stage," said Stone. "We all love Karen and look forward to working with her again very soon."
No other explantion was given for the change, though Valentine was reportedly using a prompter to help with her lines at the show's fourth preview, a day before her monologue was officially scrapped. An insert being added to the production's Playbill includes the acknowledgement: "Special thanks to Karen Valentine".
The trimmer version of Santaland has been in place since Tuesday, November 5, and the show remains on schedule to open tonight - November 7. Olyphant's "Santaland" monologue has been expanded and now runs a little over an hour. The producers have lowered ticket prices from the original $37.50 to $30 and $32.50 to reflect the shortened and star-less nature of the current production.
Santaland is currently playing at the Atlantic Theatre through January 5. Call 212-239-6200 for tickets, or order tickets online.
-- by Andrew Ku