Review: Arts Club Theatre Company’s “The Day Before Christmas”
Last year, Arts Club left their perennial holiday classics White Christmas and The Santaland Diaries behind for a brand new Christmas-themed production. Stacey Kaser and Alison Kelly’s The Day Before Christmas challenged everything that people hate about Christmas: the notion that everything is meant to perfect, the unnecessary stress, and the fact that family is often put last behind minute details. Audiences loved Kaser and Kelly’s play enough for Arts Club to bring it back.
Now, The Day Before Christmas is somewhat of a perennial holiday classic in its own right. It’s an underdog and an antihero that both celebrates the most wonderful time of the year and seethes with upset about it simultaneously.
This year, three of the five stars return, with the roles of parents filled by cast newcomers. This time around, Jennifer Copping plays super mom/caterer extraordinaire Alex while Paul Herbert steps in for fumbling dad Alan. Somehow, Copping and Herbert help this remounting of The Day Before Christmas become even greater, with forced chemistry that fits the production and its narrative perfectly.
Even though it’s the same story we saw last year, The Day Before Christmas is a show worth a second watch. It’s nice to see a Christmas-themed production without all the cliches while still representing the holiday season. Audiences will relate to the plot about a family who have all of the right intentions, but make poor decisions all around.
It’s all too familiar to see people stress out this time of year. Yet, Hollywood and Broadway productions always seem to cover that notion with piles of glitter and songs. The Day Before Christmas has moments that are touching, a lot of laughs, and an overall tone that perfectly reflects the holidays. Its performers are so natural and the production is so believable that you almost feel as if you’re sitting on a couch in the family’s living room while they squabble adjacent to you.
A lot of the production is just Copping cutting up candied fruit for a Christmas cake and holiday ornaments in various states of array and order, but this is a script that leans heavily on dialogue to drive the plot. When the entire production takes place in the living room, we rely upon the characters to take us outside of their home with verbal experiences. The clever script does so by allowing us in to each of the characters’ lives and psyches with a beautiful story that allows flaws to be hung on the wall along with accomplishments. If only we could take a cue from these characters and allow ourselves to learn so openly.
It wouldn’t be theatre without a few curveballs, though. Real Christmases may not always have bloody noses, destroyed turkeys, and pregnant brides, but most families have experienced some similar big event or catastrophe that accompanies yuletide festivities. Not only is this show entertaining to watch, it’s also comforting in helping us to remember that underneath all the chaos and insanity, Christmas can be as relaxed as you make it if you’re willing to shake off all the glitter.
Main image: Daren Dyhengco, Jennifer Copping, and Julie Leung in Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of The Day Before Christmas. All photography by David Cooper.
The Day Before Christmas: Written by Stacey Kaser and Alison Kelly. Directed by Chelsea Haberlin.