Genevieve Fleming as Mary in the Arts Club production of The Twelve Dates of Christmas. Fleming shares the role with Melissa Oei. Photo by Moonrider Productions.
Genevieve Fleming as Mary in the Arts Club production of The Twelve Dates of Christmas. Fleming shares the role with Melissa Oei. Photo by Moonrider Productions.

The Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of The Twelve Dates of Christmas is as lighthearted as its title suggests.

All the characters weaving in and out of Ginna Hoben’s script are played by one actor, either Genevieve Fleming or Melissa Oei, in rotation. As both performances are directed by Barbara Tomasic, the basic thrust of each interpretation should bear similarities. The online version I saw, by Fleming, was engaging, entertaining and moving.

The action is set in New York and Ohio. However, Ted Roberts’s set gives no visual indication of any scene change. Nor is one necessary as a few simple props and costume additions are adequate to suggest time, place and events. Most scenes are linked by appropriate piano comments played by Ken Cormier.

The play opens as Mary, the main character, dumps her fiancé after seeing him passionately kissing another woman in New York’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television, while spending the holiday with her family in Ohio.

Once back home in New York, new dating possibilities arrive on the scene within months. They leave again almost as quickly. Edward is too serious, David is too drunk, and Dr. John is a two-timer. The pattern continues.

Melissa Oei in the Arts Club production of The Twelve Dates of Christmas. Oei shares the role with Genevieve Fleming. Photo by Moonrider Productions.
Melissa Oei (above) shares the role of Mary in the Arts Club production of the Twelve Dates of Christmas with Genevieve Fleming. Photo by Moonrider Productions.

During lulls between dating, Mary plays Maid of Honour at friends’ weddings. A job as a barrister in a coffee shop lines up more dates, good, bad and psycho, alongside the espressos and cappuccinos.

When she lands the part of the Ghost of Christmas Past in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, she discovers true love in the little boy who plays Tiny Tim. There’s no longer a need to follow the rules of dating. This is the real thing. Even the reappearance of her contrite ex-fiancé and a globe-trotting musician can’t compare.

Mary declares this Christmas Day the best day she’s had all year.

For anyone feeling glum at the prospect of spending the holidays differently this year, this funny, sentimental and good-spirited play could provide the perfect solution.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas written by Ginna Hoben. Directed by Barbara Tomasic with alternating performances by Genevieve Fleming and Melissa Oei. An Arts Club Theatre Company production. Currently playing online with live performances at the BMO Theatre Centre, pandemic restrictions allowing from December 8 to January 3. Visit artsclub.com for tickets and information.