It seems like every year we're examining a new Cricket Daniel play at 2nd Street Theater and 2015 is no exception. Daniel has been writing and producing her shows steadily since 2009, releasing the full-length shows Couple Dating, Love, Laughter & Lucci, Gina Galdi & Guest and Helen on Wheels. She has also written Kentucky Chickens and Break Dreams, a pair of 10-minute plays, the latter of which was made into a short film accepted by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Her newest is The Night Before the Night Before Christmas. The play follows Lou and Carol, a couple 45 years into their marriage and extremely set in their rituals and ways, especially at Christmas. But this year things are different and the holiday is just not shaping up like Lou was hoping, so he and Carol decide to cancel Christmas and head somewhere a little warmer than their frigid New Jersey home. As they arrive at the airport, the storm gets worse and Christmas related hijinks ensue.
Writing a Christmas show is a good move for a playwright and also something of a rite of passage. Just about every comedic playwright tries their hand at a holiday show because not only can it be quite lucrative (the play's timeliness comes back every year), but the challenge of writing a Christmas show that becomes popular around the country is a daunting and exciting one.
"I had noticed, as a playwright looking to get my plays produced outside of the Oregon market, that when I would visit theater websites across the country the same Christmas plays were being produced every year," says Daniel. "I wanted to write something new and contemporary, but still hold the magic of a classic Christmas story"
Daniel's trajectory as a writer has been interesting. She wants to eventually write for television, specifically in the realm of sitcoms, and if you look at her earlier work you can definitely see that influence. While well sketched, her characters in Couple Dating, Gina Galdi and Lucci are all broadly drawn with larger than life personalities and viewpoints that would fit well into a 22-minute sitcom time slot. With Helen on Wheels, she traded the constant joke delivery system of her earlier characters for people that seemed lived in and genuinely authentic. It's actually a surprisingly moving play that proved Daniel could try her hand at drama if she really wanted to.
"I don't know if I would ever tackle a full-blown drama, but I do enjoy writing dramatic scenes," Daniel says. "In The Night Before The Night Before Christmas, I have wonderful dramatic scenes that I think will bring a few audience members to tears. I love to see members of the audience moved to tears when watching my plays. I mean, as a writer, that's pretty powerful. It's powerful and validating that I must be doing something right, you know?"
Still, she says she's sticking with laugh-makers.
"But I am a comedy writer. My background is in stand-up and improv. It's just in my DNA," she explains. "So I think I will most likely stick to comedies, but tug at your heartstrings as I go. I know I personally love to laugh and cry during plays and movies. And I usually do write as both a playwright and an audience member."
As playwright in residence at 2nd Street Theater, she is encouraged to go in any direction she chooses and that should be interesting to see.
The Night Before the Night Before Christmas
7:30 pm, December 4-19. 3 pm matinees December 6 & 13
2nd Street Theater, 220 NE Lafayette