Come December there’s always room for Crumpet, the sardonic gay adult who rather desperately takes a job as a department store elf and dishes to us about the needy customers and the sad-sack Santas.
Or at least there ought to be room for Crumpet and “The Santaland Diaries,” penned by the ever-tart David Sedaris and long ago adapted into a hardy solo show. But it’s going down like a rubber fruitcake at Drafthouse Comedy Theater. The acting’s too good. The tone’s too tame.
Cameron Folmar carries the 80-minute show on a scantly decorated stage; if “Santaland” is meant as theater’s break at the comedy club, it’s a thin start. Folmar’s pedigree includes ultrarefined comedies such as “The School for Lies” with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, and it shows whenever he slips into characters Crumpet describes. He is smooth as he becomes oddball co-workers and demanding shoppers.
But thespian facility is not what makes the Sedaris jokes run. The snapshot takedowns are a platter of snark doused in vinegar, and Folmar — reduced to the traditional elfin leggings and pointy shoes — is only partly there. He is droll, more Dick Cavett (or maybe Sedaris, who did it himself as radio readings) than Nathan Lane.
The more Folmar loosens up, the better the comedy crowd reacts. At Drafthouse Comedy, the audience seems primed for stand-up, and that’s nearly what this is, by default. The production isn’t tailored with much in terms of sound, set or light — anything, really, beyond the elf costume and Folmar’s style. Might want to max out on that last ingredient.
The Santaland Diaries, by David Sedaris. Directed by Lynn Sharp Spears. Through Dec. 23 at Drafthouse Comedy Theater, 1100 13th St. NW. Tickets $20. Call 202-750-6411 or visit drafthousecomedy.com.