Editor's Note: The following review comes from the Indy's new theater critic Terry Gibson. Watch for more of his reviews in future issues and on the IndyBlog.
It takes a little history to nudge Mary of Ohio, the lone character in Ginna Hoben
’s light comedy The Twelve Dates of Christmas,
into sharp character outlines. But with this show now playing at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
, it's worth an attempt, so here goes.
A single New York actress in her early 30s, Mary has recently suffered the double whammy of a broken engagement while having been beaten in a race to the altar by her scatterbrained kid sister. Mary labors by day as a diner waitress, unless a paying theater gig comes along.
But the city she inhabits is quite different from the one most of us recognize. The reality of post-9/11 New York is a conspicuous absence of reality. The site of a relentless 30-year, tag-team campaign by Ed Koch
, Rudolph Giuliani
and Michael Bloomberg
to make the streets safe for Disney
, it has rendered unto Mickey not only its unique powers of enchantment, but its tough-love commandments to transform, and therefore, survive.
Thus Mary from Ohio (evenly played by Adrian Egolf
), on a myopic crusade to settle the matter of matrimony once and for all, seems to homogenize with, rather than adapt to, a hostile, unforgiving environment. With her own survival guide of “Personal Policies” to live and date by, Mary is a human Lava-Lite, and appears, mysteriously, right at home.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are her benchmarks, the dependable holiday events for testing the doubtful hearts of men. Attendance is required, fellas — fail at one of these gatherings, and she will drop you faster than you can say Martha Stewart
She is, and has been her entire life, a willing Midwestern consumer of the equally relentless "Oprahfication of everything
," only recently expired, that we’ve all endured so bravely. In the Gospel According to Oprah, romance is replaced by "meaningful relationships," and celebrity outshines deserved fame.
God, what a relief that’s over. Quiet now, or it might come back.
Yet this is too harsh a judgment. If Mary is selecting a mate by thinly disguised Darwinian criteria, it is not entirely her own fault. She has even less an idea of where such pairing-off proscriptions come from than we do. None, in fact. And some of the guys she stumbles upon in Twelve Dates of Christmas
blatantly forfeit themselves from any future with Mary, tying their own noose by misbehavior or tactlessness.
She plays by all the rules, expects the same from her dates, though as precepts they are often too one-sided for her own pleasure or good. No second chances (mostly) for the men she submits to or hearkens after, be it bartender or pediatrician — or, for that matter, herself.
Put another way, Mary is the prince with the unyielding glass slipper, her dates the Cinderellas desperately trying to squeeze into it.
She does come equipped, though, with certain tools to leverage and possibly stretch her thinking. Words like “irony” and “cynical” fall from her lips more than once in Twelve Dates of Christmas
, though they sound fashionable and au courant
rather than pointedly experienced. Again, the hollowing hand of Oprah pervades.
Egolf and director Max Ferguson
hit all the peaks and valleys of Mary’s quest, from the serial weddings of others she endures on Long Island
, to the trench warfare and “ambush kissing” in the bowels of Manhattan
. Egolf is at her hilarious best when impersonating, or rather exorcising, the panoply of well-intentioned relations and friends who besiege her with advice by cellphone, voicemail and Hallmark card. They never let up, and Egolf straddles their pain-in-the-ass solicitude with balanced seriocomedy. Indeed, Egolf’s Mary is a sturdy gal, not easily knocked off the beam, and a heartfelt need for love does exist in her, if it weren’t so damned hard for others to find it.
The Twelve Dates of Christmas
Through Dec. 22, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays 3 p.m.
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.
Tickets: $20; for more information, call 634-5583 or visit csfineartscenter.org.