12 Dates Of Christmas

December 12, 2011 by staff 

12 Dates Of Christmas, What: Actors Guild of Lexington’s production of David Sedaris’ The SantaLand Diaries and Project SEE Theatre’s production of Ginna Hoben’s The 12 Dates of Christmas. When: SantaLand is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8, 10 and 16; and 2 p.m. Dec. 18. The 12 Dates is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9, 15 and 17; and 2 p.m. Dec. 11.

Where: Downtown Arts Center, 114 E. Main St. Tickets: $15, $25 for both shows, $12 students. Tickets available at the Downtown Arts Center box office, 141 E. Main St., by calling (859) 225-0370 or visiting

If Actors Guild of Lexinhgton’s current production of The SantaLand Diaries is about the absurd perils of the beast that is retail at Christmas, Project SEE Theatre’s sister production, The 12 Dates of Christmas, is about the travails of singledom during the “most wonderful time of the year.”

Both AGL and ProjectSEE are sharing the black box theater at the Downtown Arts Center in alternating performances of one-actor, one-act Christmas comedies.

When thirtysomething Mary sees her fiancé kissing another woman on television at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, she tosses her engagement ring in a Salvation Army donation bucket and embarks on a year’s worth of dates. So goes the plot of The 12 Dates of Christmas, written by Transylvania University adjunct playwriting professor Ginna Hoben.

The play is a fun, flirty romp through the highs and lows — OK, mostly lows — of one New York actress’s quest for happy couplehood.

While I have a few quibbles about the writing and direction of the show, the spirited comedic performance by Ellie Clark as Mary was a thoroughly enjoyable highlight of the play, which is reminiscent of other hijinks-laden singles comedies like Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Mary, though, is far more ordinary than Bridget or Sex in the City’s Carrie Bradshaw. She is from Ohio, is an actress living in New York, and used to love Christmas. That is really about all we know about her, and Clark’s chief challenge is to make ordinary Mary extraordinarily interesting. Clark mines Hoben’s script for all it’s worth and creates the most comically rewarding moments out of Mary’s most vulnerable.

Clark did flub a line or two in Friday’s opening-night performance (such as mistakenly saying “New Year’s Eve” instead of “Christmas Eve”) but she never missed a beat in her recovery and continued to deliver a commanding performance. I especially enjoyed her portrayal of other characters in Mary’s life, like a 5-year-old boy she befriends during an acting gig.

However, not even Clark’s charisma can redeem some of Mary’s more questionable moments of self-absorption. For instance, after Mary’s mother and aunt meddle too much in her love life, she cuts her family out of her life during the holidays. Really? The “cold war” between Mary and her family was funny up until that point, but I lost a good bit of empathy for her plight when she took things that far.

The play’s ending, too, might irk some. On one hand, it works in that it suggests a resolution without tying things up in a nice bow; on the other hand, surely I was not alone in wanting to know, to visibly see and experience, whether or not Mary got her man.

Sullivan Canady White’s direction brings out the best in Clark; the show’s momentum never sags, and Clark is not bashful about directly connecting with the audience. But when Clark is positioned in either of the far corners of the stage floor, those at the other corner must crane their necks to see, so there is this teeter-totter effect of connecting really closely and then reaching to see what it is going on.

It also would’ve been nice if lighting designer Mike Sanders would’ve dimmed the house lights earlier in the play. While this is not the kind of show that requires complicated lighting to tell the story, the brightness was distracting.

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