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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 10, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 23
Sense and Sensibility - a great adaptation
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Sense and Sensibility - a great adaptation

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Sense and Sensibility
Book-It Repertory
Through June 26


Book-It Repertory does the 18th century so very, very well! Jane Austen adaptations seem to meld their love of books, their love of period, and their humor all together into the perfect theatrical offering.

With a beautifully encapsulated adaptation by Austen-phile Jen Taylor, Sense and Sensibility is the latest production for your Austen-tatious viewing pleasure. The sense and decorum of Elinor Dashwood (embodied by the lovely and self-possessed Kjerstine Anderson) and the almost histrionic sensibility of Miss Marianne Dashwood (performed with the proper rush of emotions by Jessica Martin) bring the book to life.

The sisters Dashwood, their mother (Amy Fleetwood), and younger sister Margaret (a comically youthful Samantha Leeds) are left in less-than-affluent circumstances after their father's untimely death. Their brother (Shawn Law) has promised to take care of them, but their greedy sister-in-law (Emily Grogan) convinces him that, since they will have no carriages or horses or ever entertain, they have virtually no expenses and should get along just fine as-is.

An extended visit by shy, awkward brother-in-law Edward Ferrars (Jason Marr) finds Elinor appreciating his wit and sensible nature when she gets to know him. Meeting the more dashing and vivacious John Willoughby (Aaron Blakely) touches Marianne's heart, though she is also being courted by the much older and less emotional Colonel Brandon (David Quicksall).

There are twists in the road to love's fulfillment, of course, beginning with the introduction of Lucy Steele (Angela DiMarco), who tells Elinor that she has been the secret fiancé of Edward for four years, but due to his mother's temper, they have kept it a secret. And Willoughby turns out to have behaved very badly indeed, causing Marianne great grief. Neither sister seems destined for romantic success.

The main issue of this upper-crust comedy is whether it is better to be emotional and open (with sensibility), or to hide your feelings and be discreet (and sensible). Ultimately, neither quite wins, though Austen's preference for the sense side of the equation gives it a bit of an upper hand.

The whole cast enthusiastically participates in making this novel come to life. As seen through the eyes of the sisters, characters are stereotyped and exaggerated, adding to the fun. Ensemble members Law and Grogan play two contrasting sets of married couples, each fittingly. Grogan as an enthusiastic mother found an illustrative laugh that trills perfectly above the activity. DiMarco's almost upper-crust behavior is perfectly awkward, and she gets the best costumes by Deane Middleton to compensate.

Marr plays both Ferrars brothers and contrasts them beautifully, one being restrained and boring and the other flamboyant and almost loathsomely social. Bill Johns acquits himself well as both the father and an oblivious, though generous, kinsman. Karen Nelsen provides more laughs as the busybody Mrs. Jennings.

The scenic design by Pete Rush uses innovative sliding cloth backdrops to bring the action in and out of an outdoor setting, but is a bit overly fluttery with additional sheeting that adds little to some set changes. Lighting by Amiya Brown and sound by Kevin Heard add proper atmosphere. The dialect sounded spot-on, supported by coach Gin Hammond.

Director Makaela Pollock keeps the production moving and brings the story to a quick but well-earned ending that might find a tear in the eye of an audience member or two. The production is suitable for the whole family, and even little girls (about 6 and up) will find it entrancingly clear. It's a great way to be introduced to Austen and encourage reading, which is exactly the Book-It mission.

For more information, go to www.book-it.org or call 206-216-0833.

Discuss your opinions at sgncritic@gmail.com.

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