Christmas is coming, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, theatres in BC have been hit especially hard, and I don’t want to look like an asshole. But, if I’m going to be honest, there’s no way to avoid saying this: The Twelve Dates of Christmas is a waste of time.
The script is punishingly inevitable.
Mary starts off this solo show by telling us that her engagement exploded when she was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV and she saw her fiancé in the crowd — kissing another woman. Mary has always loved the holidays, especially Thanksgiving so, as she trudges her way through a series of disappointing dates — and seasonal celebrations — we know we’re going to have to get through the whole frickin’ year until she finds her preordained happy resolution. And we’ve heard the title when we booked our tickets, so we know it’s going to be around Christmas.
This lack of suspense makes for a long theatrical year.
It’s not like there’s any point or charm to any of this. Mary doesn’t accumulate insight or grow as a person. She mocks virtually every other character she introduces us to and she’s a petulant bag with her family. (She’s a New Yorker and they’re in Ohio, so she ridicules their accents and supposed lack of sophistication.)
Actors Melissa Oei and Genevieve Fleming are playing alternating performances as Mary.
On opening night, I watched Oei via livestream. Under Barbara Tomasic’s direction, Oei pushes relentlessly and it gets grating. I suppose you could argue that the script demands energetic delivery. And Oei was performing for a small live audience while being filmed, which is a tricky thing to do: exaggeration works better when you’re not so close up. Still, I was relieved when Oei settled down towards the end of the evening and showed us some of the genuine warmth and vulnerability of which she’s capable.
Ted Roberts offers a set made of wooden planks that run along the floor then curve up the wall. It’s as warm and simple as a Scandinavian lamp. (That’s a good thing.)
The underlying question is “Why did artistic director Ashlie Corcoran program The Twelve Dates of Christmas?” A couple of answers are obvious: small-cast shows are safer and cheaper to produce during Covid and Christmas entertainments can draw seasonal crowds. But what’s the point in programming a piece that so thoughtlessly squanders theatre’s potential?
THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS By Ginna Hoben. Directed by Barbara Tomasic. An Arts Club production viewed via livestream on Wednesday, November 25. Digital stream available on November 27. Tickets for recorded performance are available here. To be performed live on the Newmont Stage December 8 to January 3. Get your tickets for the live performances here.
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