Jocelyn Duford and John Manning star in a new production of Jack Neary’s "First Night" in Newburyport in December.
Jocelyn Duford and John Manning star in a new production of Jack Neary's "First Night" in Newburyport in December.

Jack Neary's "First Night," a charming romance, is the perfect play to get you in the holiday spirit. A new production will be staged Dec. 13-16 at the Actors Studio of Newburyport, 50 Water St.

Neary directs the delightful two-hander that features Jocelyn Duford and John Manning. Set on New Year's Eve 1985, the story of lost love and second chances focuses on Danny Fleming, a guy in his mid-30s who works in a video store. As he is about to close his store for the evening, a woman he remembers from grammar school comes in. What he remembers most about her is that she went away to be a nun. So why is she there? And why does he care? As the story unfolds, we learn the answers to these and many other questions.

"This is a very funny play whose characters are so human it hurts," executive director Marc Clopton said. "The Actors Studio of Newburyport is proud to present this Jack Neary play for our audiences."

"First Night" was Neary's first play and the first premiere staged at Merrimack Repertory Theatre back in the mid-'80s, when the late Dan Schay was producing artistic director. It also was produced at Mount Holyoke College Summer Theatre and at the Theatre Lobby in Boston, as well as a brief off-Broadway run.

Neary notes, "As was the case with previous casts, these two actors are, truly, top of the heap. Rehearsals have been a blast. Think about setting aside some time to visit Newburyport at holiday time and see these two superb actors at work."


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Performances are Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 13-15, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 16, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20, adults; $18, students and seniors. Call 978-465-1229 or visit www.newburyportacting.org for tickets and info.

Nancye Tuttle's email address is nancyedt@verizon.net.

On the marquee

COMING TO TOWN: Just in time for Santa's arrival at the mall comes "Santaland Diaries" at Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth, N.H. On stage for three performances, Nov. 15-17, the hilarious, subversive show is a brilliant one-man evocation of a slacking Macy's elf at the height of the Christmas season. It is adapted from American humorist David Sedaris' 1992 essay that he based on his own experiences working as an elf. Joe Mantello adapted it for the stage. The show is for adults only and ideal for folks who need a little help getting into the holiday spirit. Shows Thursday, 7:30 p.m., and Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m. Tickets $20-$25 at www.seacoastrep.org.

NAUGHTY, NAUGHTY: Don't miss Image Theater's 12th annual "Naughty Readings" fundraiser this Saturday, Nov. 17, at 8 p.m., upstairs at The Old Court, 29 Central St., in downtown Lowell. On tap are R-rated short plays, music, hip-hop poetry and more. Leave the kids at home. Tickets $27 in advance; $30 at the door. Visit www.imagetheater.com.

AN 'EARNEST' WEEKEND: Oscar Wilde's witty comedy of manners, "The Importance of Being Earnest," is on stage this weekend at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport. It features historically accurate costumes and carefully curated English accents to transport audiences to Victorian-era England. Performances Thursday, Nov. 15, 7 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, Nov. 16-17, 8 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 18, 3 p.m. Visit www.firehouse.org for tickets.