The Twelve Dates of Christmas at the Westport Playhouse is a splendid showcase for the talents of actor Jennifer Theby-Quinn and video designs of Margery and Peter Spack.
The play by Ginna Hoben is a one-actor show in which Theby-Quinn portrays the narrator, Mary, and a dozen other characters. While watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television, Mary sees her fiancé is kissing another woman. The engagement is over, and Mary reluctantly begins dating again.
“One hundred and twenty-five jackasses it takes to meet one decent man,” Mary moans. “It’s exhausting!” She is a modern woman whose entertaining narrative is meant for adults.
Mary is speaking during the second Christmas season after the breakup. As she tells her story, she places an ornament on a Christmas tree to mark each of her twelve relationships during the previous year.
Under Lee Anne Mathews’ fluent direction, Theby-Quinn projects the full emotional range of Mary’s adventures in dating, from the elation of meeting someone with potential to the exasperation of realizing she has kissed a frog, not a prince. Theby-Quinn has a sure grip on the humor that arises from Mary’s frustrations.
When Theby-Quinn is portraying both sides of Mary’s interactions with others, the conversations are engaging and easy to follow because Theby-Quinn gives each character a distinctive personality and way of speaking.
The script specifies that the stage is empty except for the Christmas tree on which Mary places the ornaments. In the Westport production, the tree is part of the wonderful video design by Margery and Peter Spack. The ornaments appear through the magic of animation.
High-resolution images are projected throughout the show on the 40-foot video screen at the rear of the Westport stage. The first video is a recorded announcement in which a larger-than-life Theby-Quinn enlivens the usual instructions to silence one’s cell phone.
When the show begins, the video continually specifies the location and reflects the action. Sometimes the video is witty. It is always attractive and helpful, enhancing the viewer’s understanding of the play without overshadowing the performer. The executive producers of the Westport, Dan Byington and Lenny Mink, must be praised for recognizing in advance how much the video would add to the production.
Praise is also due to Jacob Baxley’s sound, Daniel MacLaughlin’s lighting, Elizabeth Henning’s wardrobe consulting, and Lenny Mink and Kurtis Gibbs’s video editing and photography.
The Twelve Dates of Christmas continues through Friday, December 23, at the Westport Playhouse, on the second floor of the gold tower in Westport Plaza. Starting times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are available at www.westportplay.com. The Twelve Dates of Christmas contains adult language and themes.
Photo by Kurtis Gibbs