This year, Santa has brought us a wonderful gift—a fresh and funny take on life around the holidays entitled The Twelve Dates of Christmas. Santa had a lot of help from writer Ginna Hoben, Director Abigail Isaac, and actress Kari Ginsburg, who have delivered the perfect mix of laughs, pathos, and perceptive insights on being single, dating, and family.
Ginsburg plays the role of Mary, an engaged woman who, on her favorite day of the year, watches at her family’s home in Ohio as the TV camera catches her fiancé kissing another woman at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. The story continues from there as we watch Mary dating a series of men over the next year. This is a one-woman show so Ginsburg plays all the roles, including her mother, sister, Aunt Kathy, several men, and even a little boy.
Let me interrupt here a moment with a confession. Generally, I am not a fan of one-actor productions but Ginsburg made me rethink my personal policy about such shows. She is terrific with voices, accents, postures, making us see the many characters with whom she is interacting. I was never confused as she jumped back and forth between the role of Mary and other characters. One scene where Mary is talking on the telephone with her mother after a bad breakup is particularly strong.
In the opening minutes of the performance, I was fairly certain I was going to like this character as she be-bopped around the homey set, interacting with several audience members who are sitting on couches on stage, and just generally having a good time. My instincts were well-founded as the actress displayed an unbridled enthusiasm as well as an authenticity that, at times, had me thinking she wrote the script since she seems so genuine in the role. She must be exhausted at the conclusion since she keeps the show moving at a fairly intense pace.
The entire production team is to be congratulated for their work. The bi-level set supports the multi-location story but always returns us safely back home. The music is well integrated and the lighting was never overdone.
Ultimately, the show finds its center and heart without a diabetes-inducing, sugar-coated ending that can often be found in holiday classics. Kudos to NextStep Theatre Company for this smart, witty, and satisfying addition to holiday theater. Some Christmas shows feel like they reach their expiration date as soon as the clock strikes twelve on Christmas night, but The Twelve Dates of Christmas will still be fresh even after the 25th.
So ladies, grab your friends, get your tickets, and make it a great ‘Ladies Night Out.’ Men, trust me, you’ll hit a home run if you take your partner out for a date to see The Twelve Dates of Christmas. You’ll be happy you did.
Running Time: 90 minutes, without an intermission.