“Snug” takes a sideways look at “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

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Actors doing a scene in a bedroom.
Snug: From the left: Billie Wyatt and Ellie Gossage. Photo by Avery Brunkus

A faux-Shakespearean style, with borrowings from other plays

Actors looking up into the distance.
“Snug”: From the left: Billie Wyatt, Isaac Hickox-Young, Anthony Paglia, Rupert Spraul, Dino Curia, and Kirby Davis. Photo by Avery Brunkus

Bonnie J. Monte, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, has written a new play, Snug, which looks at the events of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream through the activities of the town workmen who put on a play for the wedding of the local prince.

She also directs the play and has done the costume and sound design. I’m sorry to say that I think Monte as director and playwright combined, has bitten off more than she can chew.

The play is written in a faux-Shakespearean style, with borrowings from other plays, most notably Hamlet. Snug, a joiner (a type of carpenter), is pleased to be working on the sets of the workmen’s play but is appalled to learn that she is being tapped to play a roaring lion. Her path to self-confidence is aided—or hindered—by Puck, the mischievous sprite; Francis Flute, the bellows mender in the acting troupe; the overbearing Bottom, the weaver who fancies himself an artiste; and the female personification of Moonshine.

The problem with Snug is in its direction. The actors apparently were guided to present the play as though the work was designed to be an after-school special aimed at pre-middle-school students. I believe that Ms. Monte as director, was too close to the play she wrote to see and fix its problems. If another director, such as Brian B. Crowe, who directed The Comedy of Errors with the same cast, had been at the helm of this play as well, the actors might have been allowed to better fill out their characters—and the playwright might have been persuaded to make changes that could have improved Snug into a charming little play of romance and self-empowerment mixed with a backstage comedy.

In the title role, Billie Wyatt is both a charming actor and a skilled puppeteer. Her Snug is as confident in her skills as a joiner as she is uncertain about acting the part of a ferocious lion. Rupert Spraul’s Bottom plays a self-absorbed amateur actor to the hilt and has a flair for physical comedy, especially when he plays against Jeffrey Marc Alkins as Shep, a shepherd who acts as a mentor for the workmen, and Kirby Davis as Quince, the troupe’s director.

Snug should appeal to families with pre-teen children who will get a kick out of the humorous activities of workmen enraptured with the thought of putting on a play. Other than that, I regretfully cannot recommend seeing Snug.

Snug is presented by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey at the outdoor theatre at the College of St. Elizabeth in Convent Station in repertory with The Comedy of Errors until August 1st.

For the performance schedule, to order tickets, or for more information, contact the Shakespeare Theatre at ShakespeareNJ.org or at 973-408-5600.