‘Midsummer’ surprise: New play ‘Snug’ inspired by Shakespeare’s classic comedy

snug review

PHOTOS BY AVERY BRUNKUS

From left, Dino Curia, Kirby Davis, Rupert Spraul, Anthony Paglia, Billie Wyatt and Isaac Hickox-Young co-star in “Snug.”

Shakespeare lovers — even the most ardent among them — may not remember that there is a Shakespearean character named Snug. He is a joiner (basically, a carpenter) and an amateur thespian who appears in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and is such a minor character that he doesn’t even have a first name.

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s artistic director, Bonnie J. Monte, has written a new play, “Snug,” that is currently being presented at the outdoor stage of the College of St. Elizabeth in Florham Park, in repertory with Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” (click here for my review of “The Comedy of Errors”). Monte also directed this production, and does the costume and sound design.

Snug, a female character here (played by Billie Wyatt), joins forces with other “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” characters to present an ill-fated play within a play, much as they do in Shakespeare’s work. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” characters such as Puck (Katja Yacker) and Hippolyta (Ellie Gossage) figure in the action as well.

Rupert Spraul in “Snug.”

In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Snug is insecure, fearing he won’t be able to remember his lines when playing a lion, and then explaining, onstage, that’s he’s not really a lion, so as not to scare the ladies in the audience with his roar. In “Snug,” Monte makes Snug’s self-doubt a central theme: She spends much of the play concerned that she won’t be able to summon a convincing roar when it comes time to do so in the play. Monte also adds a love story: Snug and fellow actor Flute (Isaac Hickox-Young) are attracted to each other but too shy to act on it.

The “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” character Bottom (Rupert Spraul), a conceited actor, is one of Shakespeare’s greatest comic creations, and sure enough, Spraul steals the show here, delivering his lines with hilarious hamminess. The disastrous play within a play, viewed from a backstage angle (as in Michael Frayn’s show-biz farce, “Noises Off”) is also quite amusing, and Wyatt has some nice moments interacting with Snug’s cute dog (a puppet).

Monte has her characters speak in Shakespearean fashion (using “Methinks …,” for instance”) but her writing is too repetitive: There is no need to have Snug spend so much time obsessing over her fear that she won’t be able to roar. And except for the play-within-a-play scene, before which a stage is built in front of our eyes, not much of an attempt is made to create settings for the various scenes (a sign sometimes tell us where the scene is taking place, or an actor tells us).

Ultimately, “Snug” seems a little slight by Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s standards, especially when compared to the more substantial and more entertaining “The Comedy of Errors.”

Remaining productions of “Snug” take place July 23, 25, 27, 29 and 31 and Aug. 1 at 8 p.m.; visit shakespearenj.org.

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