Imagine having lived in your home all your life and, without warning, it is all stripped away. All of your books, linens, silverware, and clothes suddenly are no longer yours. By right of the estate, your home is now passed to your husband’s son, and you must find a new place to live by the end of the month. It would be a shock to the system for many people, including Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret. They soon adjust to their new way of living, but not without finding love along the way in Sense and Sensibility.
American Players Theatre’s Take on Austen
In this adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the Dashwood women attempt to keep their heads up as they’re tossed into their new life. As they move from the Dashwood estate, the scene changes to their modest cottage in Devonshire. The servants of the household begin packing everything away, and the lush carpets, fine upholstered furniture, shelves of books, and piano give way to a barebones room. Plain, off-white sheets are pulled away to reveal simple wooden chairs, a singular table, and bare wooden floors. It’s a harsh difference from their previous abode, and the Dashwood women try to put on a brave face.
But not to worry, when it seems like nothing could cheer them up, two lively people come bursting through the front door. It’s Sir John Middleton and Mrs. Jennings, played by Brian Mani and Sarah Day respectively, coming to give these ladies a warm welcome. They immediately invite the family for dinner every night until they’re settled, and Mrs. Jennings genially inquires about their love lives, ready to play matchmaker. We feel the same rush of thankfulness the Dashwood women do as we’re embraced by these two.
The Sisters in the Spotlight
Each time Isabelle Bushue comes on stage as Margaret, with her scientific collection bucket, we’re smiling in anticipation as to what creature she’s going to pull out next.
As the Dashwoods receive visitors in their new abode, Marianne, played by Samantha Newcomb, is thrilled to entertain their guests. She insists everyone read a poem aloud, and when there’s a need for more entertainment, she’s more than happy to sing. We see she’s a romantic at heart, ready to be swept away.
Elinor, played by Laura Rook, is a patient older sister as she indulges Margaret’s scientific interests and Marianne’s dramatics. She always has time for Margaret and her latest specimen. And though she gently tries to rein Marianne in as she gets swept away by the dashing John Willoughby, she makes sure Marianne is happy at the very least.
Tragedy Turned Happy Ending
Though it looks like the sisters have bad luck at every turn, there is plenty of fun throughout the show, as the cast picks up as many comedic bits as it can. Jennifer Vosters as Lucy Steele could have been a ruthless showoff, as she is secretly engaged to Elinor’s love interest, but she surprises us by being obliviously attached at the hip to Elinor, excited to become fast friends. It was heartbreaking to see Colonel Brandon put his heart out there for Marianne, but the production does so in a light-hearted way, as he brings meaningful gifts to her only to be one-upped each time by Willoughby.
Sense and Sensibility is an even-keeled dramatic love story in which things may take turns for the worse, but it all works out for everyone in the end. For those looking for something with a more dramatic flair, this might not be for you. But for those who are fans of Jane Austen and regency-era stories complete with empire waistlines, this would be a good fit for you.
Tracy Michelle Arnold
Written by Jane Austen
Adapted by Jessica Swale
Directed by Marti Lyons
Voice & Text Coach: Joy Lanceta Coronel
Costume Design: Rachel Anne Healy
Scenic Design: Yu Shibagaki
Lighting Design: Michael A. Peterson
Sound Design & Original Music: Mikhail Fiksel
Sound Composer: Chihsuan Yang
Choreographer: Mollye Maxner
Fight Director: Jeb Burris
Assistant Costume Designer: Paul Kim
Stage Manager: Rebecca Lindsey
Thru October 9, 2022
American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Road
Spring Green, WI 53588
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About the Author: Alexis Bugajski
Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.
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