Review by Bryna Chandler
In the world of Hallmark Movies, sometimes it is nice to watch a holiday production where the happy ending is not a romantic match made in heaven. Enter American Legacy Theatre’s production of 12 Dates of Christmas, a heartwarming one-woman play offering a modern alternative to the old standards of the holiday season.
After seeing Mary’s fiancé kiss another woman on national television during the Thanksgiving Day Parade, her life quickly falls apart, of course this happens during the holidays. Over the next year, Mary stumbles through the dating world, where “romance” ranges from weird and creepy to absurd and comical. As the year and dates continue, so does Mary’s growing cynicism.
Directed by American Legacy Theatre’s Executive Artistic Director, Matthew Gellin, 12 Dates of Christmas is the second joint venture between American Legacy Theatre and Thomas More University. This collaboration allows Thomas More University students a chance to work with talented professional artists from American Legacy Theatre. A third joint production, Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, will be coming to the Cincinnati area in March 2023.
Written by Ginna Hoben, 12 Dates of Christmas can be summarized as a how-not-to-date guide for anyone looking at wooing a female in the 21st Century. Filled with common dating situations and faux pas, everyone who has dated in the past 10 years can relate to what Mary is going through. New Year’s kisses (to kiss or not to kiss that is the question), running into exes (or worse the ex of your date), mushy kisses (ewwww), a gigantic bunch of roses on a first date (just don’t), and of course getting ghosted after a perceived connection (admit it we have all been there…. or done it ourselves). Ginna Hoben’s characters are honest and raw and everyone can see a friend or family member in Aunt Cathy. The 12 Dates of Christmas is a great break from an overdose of holiday cheer in this anti-Hallmark style one-act one-woman production.
Kyndra Dyanne Jefferies takes on the daunting position of keeping the play going as the main character Mary, along with the other important, or not-so-important dates, in Mary’s story. Jefferies has no problem filling the intimate space with her voice and energy, allowing her to create a connection with the audience. This connection fits well with American Legacy Theatre’s idea of encouraging the audience to connect and understand theatre in a new way, including texting, tweeting, and photo-taking during the production. Jefferies’s charm and energy kept the story moving even through there seem to be some lapses of memory of Mary’s vast and varied dating life. Luckily Eylie Lorenz, stage manager, was quick to help out. Honestly, we all wished we had an Eylie in our life to help us out when we lose our words when dating or attempting to keep track of our dating life.
Set in a New York City apartment lobby, set and costume designer Bryce Herzner, did a nice job of bringing the holidays to the set and incorporating all the failed dates represented by ornaments on the tree. Sound & Light Designer, Kieran Casey makes sure the focus is always on Mary, even when she leaves the stage to interact with the audience. Combined with Matthew Gellin’s vision of bringing honest gratitude and empathy to the holiday season, American Legacy Theatre’s 12 Dates of Christmas helps us realize that sometimes we are surrounded by love, and sometimes it is us who is giving rather than receiving that love.
In the same vein of giving, to every person who attends the run of 12 Dates of Christmas, American Legacy Theatre will donate a toy to Toys for Tots to ensure that many youths in the region have a brighter holiday season. In addition, half of the net proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Ron Meilech Scholarship Fund at TMU, which is named after the department founder and is specifically designed to help offset costs for students studying theatre.
12 Dates of Christmas runs Dec 16th, 17th, and 18th. Tickets can be purchased HERE.
Bryna Chandler has a lifelong love for the stage, being raised in a theatrical family. She attended CCM as well as SIUE for design and dramaturgy. An amateur playwright her work has been performed in OH, CA, NV, and numerous fridge festivals. Her writing and design background led her to marketing, where she is currently the Digital Marketing & Communications Coordinator for the School of Business at UD..