When I heard the name of local playwright Cricket Daniel's new play, a lot of things popped into my head. The title, "I Shot Jennifer Lopez," reminded me of the 1996 film, "I Shot Andy Warhol," by Mary Harron about Valerie Solanas, the '60s radical who wrote a screenplay she wanted Warhol to produce. He ignored her and she shot him.
For "I Shot Jennifer Lopez," I pictured a superfan of J-Lo who finally got to meet her hero and was treated poorly, so she plans a terrible revenge that goes poorly for everyone. Or maybe it could be about a woman who wants to be friends with J-Lo, and through a farcical series of misadventures ends up accidentally shooting Jenny From the Block. Both of these scenarios I cooked up were way off.
"I Shot Jennifer Lopez" actually tells the story of two best friends, Norah and Ally. They're roommates in Manhattan who are barely scraping by as their aspirations are just barely out of reach. Norah is a photographer who dreams of getting hired by a national magazine. Ally is a singer-songwriter, barely getting any gigs and with not too many on the horizon.
Panic mode sets in when Norah's mom tells them she is cutting them off and refusing to pay rent after another 60 days. They either have to figure their lives out and make some money or get ready to move back to Montauk. Based on advice from her stoner next-door-neighbor Jude, Norah heads to Central Park to blow off some steam and get some photos of the fall tree colors.
Now here is where the central premise kicks in: Norah accidentally snaps a photo of Jennifer Lopez and her new film's director engaged in a very compromising position. This image blows (ahem) both of their minds and is a possible window out of their current dilemma. Ally wants to sell the pictures to TMZ or the National Enquirer but Norah considers herself a "good girl" and thinks the invasion of J-Lo's privacy would be morally wrong.
This is the sixth play of Cricket's I've seen, and most of her characters, structure and situations are set up to be joke delivery machines. Daniel has wanted to write for television forever, so her plays are designed almost as pilots for possible shows based on the wild and wacky characters she creates. "I Shot Jennifer Lopez" is her first show that I can think of that creates a moral dilemma like this one and lets the audience decide what the right or wrong choices are.
Daniel puts so much work into her shows that it's not just the writing aspect she is a part of. As 2nd Street Theater's Playwright in Residence, she doesn't just submit a script and then move on to the next one; she helps produce the shows and works closely with the director throughout the entire rehearsal process. Each opening night is also a world premiere and she takes that very seriously. The lead actress was unavailable on the night I attended rehearsal, so Daniel took the stage, throwing herself around the set with abandon. She puts in the work and it shows.
"My love of celebrity and Hollywood and TMZ is a subject I always wanted to tackle," says Daniel. "I did think long and hard about which star I would use and because she is a quadruple threat and does it all, no matter your age, I think most people have heard of Jennifer Lopez."
Director Susan Benson has been a part of each of Daniel's plays, onstage and off. Tackling "I Shot Jennifer Lopez" still managed to bring a few new challenges to her plate. "Time was a huge issue," says Benson. "Also, competition for talent. This and three other local shows were auditioning within days of each other. That made it kind of tough. We also had to wait until "The Beatles Die on Tuesday" to close before we got the stage, so we're coming up a week short on rehearsal time. Plus, I didn't have an entire cast until last week!"
The central question of Daniel's play is a fascinating one: Would you do something morally questionable/repugnant in order to make a vast sum of money that will fix all of your problems instantly? I left the theater not sure what I would do. On one hand I think privacy is of paramount importance; on the other hand, if you choose to get your freak on in a public park, that privacy is not remotely guaranteed. And that's the story of how "I Shot Jennifer Lopez" made me realize I was a terrible person.
Sept. 23-Oct. 8, 7:30pm Sunday matinees at 3pm
2nd Street Theater, 220 NE Lafayette Ave., Bend
2ndstreettheater.com for tickets