The Arts Club Theatre Company’s holiday show, The Day Before Christmas is much like a hand-me-down sweater. It’s comfortable and gets the job done, but like many of the old jokes in this play, it has gone out-of-style.
The Day Before Christmas follows harried caterer Alex as she races towards her perfect Christmas Eve. Caught in a storm of her children’s expectations and unforeseen circumstance, she careens dangerously towards domestic destruction.
The play culminates in a Christmas Eve where Alex must choose whether to lose her marriage, or her image of a perfect Christmas. It is a choice Jennifer Copping, as Alex, succeeds in making believable.
Along with Copping, the other performances by this cast are slick. The physicality of Paul Herbert as Alex’s husband was a particular standout, and Daren Dyhengco and Julie Leung play squabbling siblings with infectious energy. It is Curtis Tweedie though who manages to steal the final scenes as Dirk, the baby-daddy, turned Santa, turned suitor to young Brodie.
Perhaps surprisingly though, it is Drew Facey’s set design that underscores the most contentious point of the play. Sleek, modern and expensive-looking, it places the family in a very specific socio-economic background.
This is a family where money doesn’t seem to matter. Everything is expensive, but no one worries about it and where work is for ambition, rather than a necessity to put food on the table.
Lights don’t work, and the dog ate the dress? Buy a new one. Tree fell over, and the dog peed on it? Buy a new one. Wife hates the first present you gave her? Buy a new one.
When there’s an easy cash solution for every problem, no problem matters. As a result, the stakes driving Alex’s quest to create her vision of a perfect Christmas are virtually non-existent.
The Day Before Christmas is light, traditional, and familiar. And while the performances and direction are as slick as they, the script relies on simple fixes, tired jokes and its rich people problems drive the stakes about as low as any Hallmark movie.
The Day Before Christmas by Stacey Kaser and Alison Kelly. Directed by Chelsea Haberlin. An Arts Club Production on stage at the Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre (162 West 1st Ave, Vancouver) until December 24th. Visit http://artsclub.com for tickets and information.