At the center of one of the most highly anticipated productions of the Northlight Theatre's 2011-2012 season, Snapshots (music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by David Stern and directed by Ken Sawyer) are Dan (Gene Weygandt)and Sue (Susie McMonagle), a long-time couple that have been friends since childhood, back when they were still known as Danny (Nick Cosgrove) and Susie (Megan Long).
When the play opens, Sue, dissatisfied with the state of their marriage, is up in the attic of their home, suitcase packed, in the middle of writing Dan a letter explaining that she has decided to leave him. Just as she’s almost done, about to make the move and leave, Dan comes up, genuinely confused about what she might be doing up there. Rather than giving him the letter or informing him of her plans to leave him herself, she comes up with an excuse. While they are up there, Dan starts to go through the items that have gathered over the years, pointing out what he feels they can get rid of.
While puttering around in the attic, talking with Sue, he comes across a box of snapshots on the floor, much of its contents spilled out. While he gathers them up, one in particular catches his eye -- a photo taken during a trip that they took to the Caribbean many years earlier. This is when the trip down memory lane, mostly in song, begins.
It is through these glimpses that we get a better sense of who Sue and Dan really are. We get a chance to see how they met – as children, Danny the new kid in a small town, who Susie takes under her wing and introduces to her friends; the two of them as teenagers, getting ready to head off to university; Daniel (Tony Clarno) and Susan (Jess Godwin) as college graduates, going their own separate ways for the first time in a long time, pursuing their own dreams, their own careers, and then coming together again; and now Dan and Sue, married for decades, “empty-nesters,” their own son grown and out of the house. It is also through these glimpses, these memories, that we learn about what really happened versus how they remember certain events in their lives happening, how they went from childhood friends to married couple, to married couple on the verge of breaking up after decades of being together.
Though they do love and care about each other a great deal (there’s no doubt about that), there’s also no denying that there are real problems in the relationship. Much of the time they act as if they expect one another to be mind readers, each expecting the other to just somehow know what they want them to do or say. Indeed they go to great lengths not to talk about anything of substance, to avoid any unpleasantness or arguments. Then there is also, on at least some level, some resentment. Growing up Susie had her own dreams, wanted her own career, all of which now seems to have taken a backseat to raising a family, while Daniel spent much of his time away, often working 70 hours a week. While those long hours were necessary early on, when they were young – they wouldn’t have been able support a family without that job – he long ago could have scaled back to a much more reasonable, manageable schedule that would have allowed him to spend more time with Sue, yet somehow he never did, leaving her to feel essentially alone. Compounding the problem is that Dan has fallen into a familiar pattern of long hours spent at work, not recognizing that there is any sort of problem at home, whatsoever. From his perspective, he doesn’t recognize that a problem exists, therefore there isn’t one, all of which leads up to the point where the play begins … the point at which Sue must decide whether she is to leave or stay and try to work their problems out together.
While I personally enjoyed this production and found it to be very well-acted, it does seem a bit simplistic in its view of Dan and Sue’s relationship. I suspect that this play is likely to appeal most strongly to and be enjoyed by fans of Stephen Schwartz’s previous works (such as Wicked, Working, Pippin, and Godspell, among others). If you are someone who enjoys musicals, or are curious about the work of Stephen Schwartz, this play is the one to see.
Snapshots is currently scheduled to run through October 23, 2011 at Northlight Theatre. Curtain times are Tuesdays at 7:30 PM (September 20 and October 11 only), Wednesdays at 1:00 PM (except October 5) and 7:30 PM (except October 12), Thursdays at 7:30 PM, Fridays at 8:00 PM (except Opening on September 23 at 7:30 PM), Saturdays at 2:30 PM (except September 17) and 8:00 PM, and Sundays at 2:30 PM and 7:00 PM (except September 25, October 2 and October 23). Northlight Theatre is located at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie. To purchase tickets to Snapshots log onto the Northlight Theatre website, www.northlight.org, or call the Box Office at 847-673-6300. To learn more about Northlight Theatre, the entire 2011-2012 season, or any special events associated with this production, log onto the theatre’s website, www.northlight.org.
Production Photos: Michael Brosilow