Photos by Tracy Martin
The eclectic attic set of “Snapshots” is full of surprises, just as much as the production itself is. The Pulitzer Prize winning play is a nostalgic journey through the inception, rise and decline of a relationship that has gone askew and run its course. Or has it? Sue and Dan are a couple of empty nesters and Sue has decided she just can’t go on in the relationship any longer. The audience first encounters Sue in the attic where she has conveniently stashed her new suitcase that is packed and ready for her to leave Dan, who she has known since childhood. Dan finds Sue in the attic and in her haste to cover up her intentions, knocks some photographs onto the floor. Then, Sue and Dan’s relationship quickly starts to reveal itself through a clever use of snapshots that are projected onto the angled planes of the attic set.
We learn that Sue and Dan met when they were about 10 years old and were known as Susie and Danny.What is very unique about “Snapshots” is that although the actress and actor that portray Sue and Dan as adults remain the same, two other actresses and two other actors portray the couple at different points in the couple’s life. Throughout the play, the younger and older actresses often serve as brief inner and outer monologues to both their older and younger selves. It is a method that brings brief punches of humor and delivers insight into what has occurred with this couple in the last 35 or 40 years.
As teens and into college, Danny became Daniel and always had another main squeeze, much to the chagrin of Susie, who has become Susan and has always had deep feelings for her childhood friend.“Snapshots” features the music and lyrics of Stephen Schwartz, best known for powerhouse Broadway productions, “Pippen,” “Godspell,” “The Baker’s Wife,” and “Wicked,” among many others. In constructing the story, various songs written by Schwartz are woven into each scene, although the songs have been tweaked to fit the story of Dan and Sue. The music is familiar and it’s interesting to see how it has been applied to the story of “Snapshots.”
As Susan and Daniel graduate college and move into the working world, they physically drift apart, yet stay in touch as they continue school, get jobs and take other love interests. In one particularly hilarious number, “Endless Delights” (originally from “The Baker’s Wife”), Susan and Daniel are shown in their beds with their respective partners. As Susan is ignored and possibly slighted by her art professor boyfriend, Daniel is entertaining a colorful and certainly questionable string of lady friends and the ensuing song and bedroom scene had the audience in uproarious laughter. Undeniably, “Endless Delights” is the sinfully fun highlight of the first act.
Once Susan and Daniel reconnect after several years apart, they finally accept that they were meant to be together all along. Song, “I’m Moving in with Susan” includes some fun use of the attic set as Daniel tries to put the demons of girlfriends past to rest while unpacking such items as a bust of Cervantes and a casserole dish, of all crazy things. A wedding and a baby soon follow and Sue and Dan slowly drift apart as their son grows up, graduates and finally moves out of the home.
In a brief repeated poem that shows up a few times previously in the play, Dan is finally able to put his true feelings and love into the words that he should have told Sue decades earlier. Sue also is able to articulate her true feelings that developed towards Dan back when they were so young. “Snapshots” is nostalgic in its overall construction and certainly speaks to couples who have been together for a long period of time, but it is also a cleverly crafted piece with enough original humor and recognizable music to keep the story happily buzzing along, despite the underlying story of Sue trying to leave Dan.
I cannot say that any one of the actresses or actors in particular stood out above the others, although each was given a chance to shine in brief humorous and dramatic moments. “Snapshots” is truly an ensemble piece and some of its strongest moments come when all six members of the cast are singing – either in a crazy, cacophonous din or in perfectly blended harmonies. Their use of the stage was amusing, fun, revealing and it seemed that nearly every inch of it was used in telling the nostalgic story of “Snapshots.” To his credit, director of “Snapshots” Daniel Goldstein did a beautiful job of getting the actors and actresses to create unique and unforgettable moments of chemistry and humor. The timing of all the actors was impeccable and I didn’t see anyone miss a beat.If there was one critique that I had, it seemed that the eldest version of Dan seemed quite a bit older than the eldest version of Sue, which made it seem just slightly strange that the duo had aged so differently.
I think that most audience members will take away one shining message from “Snapshots” – say what you feel today and always cherish your relationships. Arizona Theatre Company’s “Snapshots” is definitely worth the visit to its home theater in Phoenix at Herberger Theater Center. “Snapshots” runs through January 17. For tickets, visit www.arizonatheatre.org or call (602) 256-6995.