Dreaming of a (Mr) Right Christmas

Confident, relaxed and in control: Sarah Gain as Mary, New York actress and mistress of her own destiny . . . .

The Twelve Dates of Christmas

The Old Joint Stock, Birmingham

****

WHAT happens after you catch your fiancé on looking awfully cosy at the Macy's Thanksgiving parade with a blonde called Melissa? On national TV?  

Almost immediately your cellphone contacts are calling and texting that they caught the moment, too. What's a girl to do? Meet Mary who dumps aforesaid faithless boyfriend and his diamond ring, but suspects that she'll have to date 125 jackasses to meet one decent man! 

This show is currently making it's UK debut in Birmingham and follows Mary's progress from ‘the annoying girl with the jingly earrings' through a year in which celebrations and holidays somehow lose their appeal.

Mary, an actress from New York City, seems to have no trouble finding dates; the men, however, vary from perfect superhero, Dr. Hogan, through a stalker and beyond. Thus the show compares and contrasts the sparkly, enforced jollity of Christmas with the harsher reality of everyday aloneness. 

It takes a strong actress to deliver a monologue, and this one-woman role is delivered with panache and enthusiasm by the adept and versatile Sarah Gain who portrays Mary's journey and mood swings (everything from vulnerable to stroppy) with great energy.

Gain readily assumes the voices and mannerisms of the range of people in Mary's life and characterising, in turn (and sometimes simultaneously), her aunt, her mother, her sister, her one-time rival turned best pal, a succession of boyfriends, and a five-year-old.  

Ginna Hobden is a Shakespearean actress from New York who penned The Twelve Dates of Christmas because she was unaware of any one-woman plays that focus on the Christmas period. It is a sharply written, semi-autobiographical piece based on a decade of singledom.

The show is witty, funny and light-hearted and avoids becoming depressing in the face of Mary's broken-heartedness.  There are lots of good punch lines to make you laugh – surely everyone's had bad dates?  

Or then again, maybe not . . . maybe finding Mr Right is is not as simple as it seemed for Mary

The cosy, intimate atmosphere of the Old Joint Stock theatre is enhanced by the simple staging. A couch and a Christmas tree take the audience into Mary's living room and we see her hanging ornaments on the tree to signify the ‘small, inexpensive, shattered scraps of life' after each date.

Her habit of asking the audience for advice after the events – from absurd to downright comical - is endearing and tends to include the audience in Mary's journey from crushing breakup-to hope.  Music throughout the show seems to serve as a bit of an aide-memoire and will have you rockin' around the Christmas tree.   

A very original and entertaining evening that deserved a larger audience, this show is something of a cross between stand-up and theatre and is a delightful pre-Christmas starter! To 15-12-12.

Laura Ginesi

And from the other side of the tree . . .

*** 

THIS one-woman play by Ginna Hoben breaks new ground at the OJS as it runs for 12 performances - the longest in the theatre's history.

It should prove successful, with shapely actress Sarah Gain in sparkling form telling the story of lost love and what happened to a young woman in the search for a new relationship.

It is set in New York where Mary, an actor in her 30s, spots her fiance 'making out' with a female co-worker as she watches a televised Thanksgiving parade.

Her engagement ring is dropped into a Salvation Army charity box and she spends the next 12 months looking - unsuccessfully - for a Mr Right.

Sarah Gain smoothly runs through the woman's experiences of being set up, hooked up and fed up after dates with a range of possibles, from a 'super hero' doctor she met on the subway to a couple of guests at a friend's wedding.

Pacing up and down the stage and occasionally sprawled on a settee, she has no problem extracting the humour from the situations, and as each liaison comes to and end she marks it by hooking (or hanging) a cardboard male figure onto a Christmas tree.

Even the helpful, or otherwise, advice from mum and would-be matchmaker Aunt Cathy manage to raise a laugh in the 85-minute play which runs to December 15.

Paul Marston

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