In their new comedy, The Day Before Christmas, playwrights Stacey Kaser and Alison Kelly take the holiday disaster to a whole new level.
“This is our revenge on Martha Stewart,” says Kaser with a laugh. “It is a show where every possible Christmas disaster that could go wrong, does go wrong.”
Not huge fans of the holidays, the writing duo saw Christmas as a perfect target. It was also an opportunity to write what they considered to be a more contemporary story in an already crowded season.
“You get all the old classics during this time of year, but you don’t see a lot of Christmas stories from right now,” says Kaser.
Developed as part of the Arts Club Theatre Company’s ReACT new play program last year, the reaction from audiences at those initial script readings was immediate. “They looked at the story and saw their lives,” says Kelly. “Some even asked if we had been in their kitchens.”
“This is our revenge on Martha Stewart.” – Stacy Kaser.
“The essence of comedy are characters that are obsessed, and people can get really obsessed with Christmas,” says Kaser.
“Especially women,” adds Kelly. “Women really take on the idea that it is up to them to make everything perfect.”
Not surprisingly, The Day Before Christmas focuses on Alex, the matriarch of a family, who is both a perfectionist, and desperately trying to hold onto her Christmas traditions. Ultimately losing control of her holiday plans, her home becomes a disaster zone.
“We both wondered why it is that women feel so pressured to create the perfect Christmas for their families, even when nobody really knows what that is, and we hope audiences recognize themselves in Alex and her family,” says Kelly.
“It’s really about how we keep family together with so many things changing,” says Kaser.
A technically demanding play with a toppling tree and burnt turkey featured nightly, The Day Before Christmas is also told in an unconventional manner, with Alex talking directly to the audience.
“Alex will control the theatrical elements that takes the audience backward and forward in time, and we have an incredible design team that is making this magic happen,” says director Chelsea Haberlin.
“It feels more immediate, like you are having Christmas with these people,” says Kelly.
Despite their mutual disdain for Christmas, Kaser and Kelly admit that they still celebrate the season. For Kelly it actually involves celebrating twice with both sides of her family, while Kelly takes a decidedly more low-key approach. “I don’t have a large extended family in Vancouver so that makes it simpler,” she says.
Having now written about the ultimate Christmas disaster, the two have some simple advice for others looking to survive their own.
“Don’t’ take it too seriously,” says Kaser.
“Something that I learned a long time ago, stay away from the malls,” adds Kelly.
And they both agree on the one thing that may be a little tough during any holiday season: avoid the Muzak.
The Night Before Christmas plays the BMO Theatre Centre (162 West 1st Ave, Vancouver) until December 24. Visit http://artsclub.com for tickets and information.