PROVO — The Hive Collaborative continues its streak of producing excellent new plays. Their latest offering, Bank Holiday, is a cozy show that explores the Christmas season without falling into any well-worn holiday clichés.
Bank Holiday is a quiet play about three bank employees who get snowed in at their workplace on Christmas Eve. Lisa — the experienced bank teller — has worked with Boyd—the security guard—for years. The newcomer is Grace, who is showing up on to her first day of work. The bank is in a small town, and all three of them attended the local high school together about 17 or 18 years ago. As the snow builds up, the three must deal with the prospect of a Christmas that is very different from the one they had planned.
Max Reuben’s script is intimate and inviting, mostly because he has crafted three characters that feel like real people that audience members can enjoy spending time with. Mostly, though, I appreciated how Reuben provided a realistic portrayal of the Christmas season in the 21st century. Bank Holiday does not smother its audience with The True Meaning of Christmas, and there are no Christmas miracles. Instead, Bank Holiday‘s strength is its plausibility. Reuben has created a compelling story about making the most of the holidays—even if they do not go according to plan. As a result, it is a delightful holiday offering that is unlike anything else on stage this season.
The only drawback to Reuben’s script is its vagueness. It is never clear what state the play occurs in, and the name of the city or the bank go unmentioned. Other questions about the play and the characters abound. Where did Grace live after high school? Somewhere warm, yes, but what state? What did she hate about growing up in a small town? Details like these could help anchor the story even further in reality.
Shelby Gist is the director of this production, and her work is so naturalistic that it usually does not looked staged at all. Characters move around the set as real people with believable purpose, and no action feels contrived of theatrical. Instead, Gist helps her actors create rich, three-dimensional characters and relationships and then turns them loose on the stage. Ironically, the clearest sign of Gist’s directorial prowess is that she can create scenes without leaving her fingerprints on them.
Gist was aided by the lovely set. Two upstage television monitors served as windows with animated falling snow that added a soothing, wintery feel to the play. The lovely bank desks and the comfortable office furniture made the stage a welcoming place for the characters and audience.
Of course, an intimate play needs a strong cast who can serve the script well. And the actors of Bank Holiday deliver. Hailey Nebeker plays Lisa as a poised, professional woman that is the rock of stability in the workplace. Every competently run office has a Lisa, and I empathized with her complaints about her boss’s behavior. I also admired her blend of kindness and professionalism, especially towards Boyd. Nebeker has an undeniable charisma that makes her easily capable of being on stage for almost all of the play.
As Boyd, Will McAllister is a lovable man who exudes innocence. The crush Boyd has on Lisa is sweet, not creepy, because of McAllister’s sincere performance that hides none of Boyd’s feelings. McAllister’s comfort in bantering with Nebeker or his simple eagerness as he comforted Grace did much to give the play an emotional core. Finally, Chelsea Hickman‘s performance as Grace was touching, especially as the character put on a brave face. Grace wanted to escape the small town where she grew up, and coming back made her feel like a failure. Hickman showed Grace’s vulnerability and turmoil, especially when discussing Grace’s mom’s health troubles or her plans to spend Christmas alone.
Bank Holiday is not a flashy show, but it is a welcomed option in the busy Utah theatre scene. The excellence that pervade the script, directing, designs, and acting make this a vastly underappreciated production. Anyone with Christmas Carol fatigue or who wants a quiet holiday evening can enjoy this 70-minute play.