Its a merry Guy Ritchie Christmas for the British louts in Anthony Neilsons dark, uneven holiday comedy. Security guard Gary (Doug Newell) finds a short man in glitter and knickers (K.M. Davies) breaking into his London warehouse. (Christie Wrights set is made of boxes that appear to stretch on endlessly, like Citizen Kanes Xanadu.) Bound to a chair, the wee bloke tries to convince Gary and his best mate, Simon (Troy Metcalf, a boulder-sized tough), that hes not a burglar but an elf or, more precisely, an employee in an international gift-distribution agency. Neilson bills his real-time hour-length show as a savagery of Yuletide, and sure enough, the tremulous elf is addicted to a white powder he swears is the spirit of Christmas, and for which the thugs promptly try to shake him and Santa down even if it ruins Christmas. (Neilsons one truly bleak gag is that the drug is forbidden for raped children.) The entrance of a headstrong local hooker named Cherry (Nina Silver) demanding Power Rangers for handjobs is a needed jolt of energy, as is the elfs bribe of wishes in exchange for freedom. Yet, director Robert Pescovitz isnt able to reconcile the sweetness of Neilsons spot-on observations of blue-collar holiday blues with his sour frustration vented at his bottom-feeding characters, who are blind to anything greater than their own materialism and misery; we exit with neither redemption nor catharsis. Pasadena Playhouse, Carrie Hamilton Theatre, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; through Dec. 20. (800) 595-4849.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Starts: Nov. 29. Continues through Dec. 20, 2008