The Twelve Dates of Christmas Is a Funny, Relatable Look at Modern Love

Review: Westport Playhouse charms the holidays with Ginna Hoben’s cute comedy

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click to enlarge A woman stands on stage talking animatedly in front of a Christmas tree.
Kurtis Gibbs
Mary (Jennifer Theby-Quinn) dishes on her year of dating in the relatable, hopeful and funny The Twelve Dates of Christmas.

Life is seldom like we see in the movies, and particularly not those popular holiday romantic comedies that proliferate this time of year. While Ginna Hoben’s comically relatable, if not quite believable, The Twelve Dates of Christmas, frequently reminds us of this point, the funny show might just make you wonder whether real life rules apply to the holiday season.

Mary, played with natural ease and flawless comic timing by Jennifer Theby-Quinn, is your typical, happily engaged single woman living in New York City. A struggling actor, she sometimes has to work service industry gigs. But she’s getting by and very happy to be heading home to Ohio for Thanksgiving — with her fiancée, which means no more struggling to find a date for family events. No more well-intentioned gossip from her mother. No more awkward introductions to single men by her busybody Aunt Kathy. And no more motivational pep talks from her perky younger sister.

Mary’s life is finally perfect, or something much closer to perfect than singlehood. That is, until her fiancée calls and says he can’t go with her for Thanksgiving because he’s really sick. Unfortunately, Mary is about to learn that the truth is a bit different than what she was told. On Thanksgiving morning, Mary and (it seems) everyone she knows except her family, sees her fiancée kissing his coworker on live TV during the Macy’s Day Parade!

Before she has time to process the shock of the moment, her parents, sister Sally and Sally’s perfect boyfriend Ted burst through the front door to announce that Sally and Ted are engaged. Naturally, Mary breaks down. The family tries to support her. Sally gives her a rousing pep talk at the gym, mom shares the news with the best of intentions, and Aunt Kathy grabs the opportunity to set Mary up with the “perfect” guy during her annual eggnog party. The guy turns out to actually be pretty fantastic, but the timing is not right, so Mary heads back to the city. And with this simple framework, a year of dating and self-discovery begins.

Theby-Quinn is naturally sympathetic and hilariously compelling as Mary. She finds a way to connect to the truth in each date and personal revelation without being showy or overt. Director Lee Ann Mathews does a great job by giving Theby-Quinn a solid framework and constraints to fill in, then letting the performer’s well-honed talents shine. Their partnership is strong, smoothing out problematic moments such as the oft-mentioned refrain that this story is “too much like a romantic comedy to be believed.”

While not an instant classic, The Twelve Dates of Christmas is a charming, often laugh-out-loud funny take on navigating modern holidays as a single person. Theby-Quinn is relatable and personable, with a keen sense of empathy and drop dead funny characterizations of the important people in Mary’s life. For good, clean holiday fun, grab some friends, a drink and enjoy!

Catch the Twelve Dates of Christmas at the Westport Playhouse (635 West Port Plaza Drive, 314-328-5868, through December 23. Dates and showtimes vary. Tickets are $34.

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About The Author

Tina Farmer

Tina Farmer is a longtime critic who has spent the last decade reviewing productions for KDHX. She is also very involved with the St. Louis Theater Circle, which supports the theater community by organizing annual awards that honor the best local productions.
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