What: Silent Night.
Where: Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre, to December 18.
Yvette Parsons creates a Kiwi Eleanor Rigby in her haunting portrait of an elderly widow busying herself in preparation for a Christmas Day gathering that no one will attend.
In spite of the grim subject matter, the show is full of laughter with hilarious demonstrations of the joys of creating DIY decorations for the Christmas table and generous servings of the bitter-sweet humour that arises out of acute observation of real people.
The power of the play comes from the way the central character, Irene McMunn, ceases to be a representative of the multitude of lonely people and establishes herself as an utterly convincing individual with her own idiosyncrasies and unfulfilled aspirations.
Her story is revealed in a series of poignant memories that delineate a life of disappointment and hardship that has been faced in a spirit of cheerful optimism and resigned gratitude.
Yvette Parsons' intense identification with the character is a masterful display that brilliantly captures the physical awkwardness of inhabiting a worn out body.
The performance is so convincing that it is difficult to suppress the impulse to offer assistance when the elderly character painfully climbs on to her couch and totters precariously on the unstable platform as she hangs a string of Christmas cards.
Stephen Papps' crisp direction shows a keen appreciation of the Kiwi vernacular and the set design lovingly recreates the elaborate cosiness of a personally decorated home unit.
The framed tapestries of Charles and Di on the wall and the contents of a Chrisco hamper spread out on the kitchen table will be instantly recognisable to anyone with memories of Christmas visits to an elderly aunt.
The show wallows in references to folksy kiwiana but manages to do so without any sense of condescension even when Irene is captivated by the inane poetry of Christmas card greetings or exploding with laughter at the dry humour of Christmas cracker jokes.
The inevitable broadcast of the Queen's Christmas Message - far from being an object of derision - comes with a pertinent reminder that at the heart of the Nativity story is an uncompromising insistence on the intrinsic value of every human being, especially those who are marginalised, isolated or suffering.
What: Silent Night.