Sense & Sensibility centers on the lives and loves of the Dashwood sisters: reserved Elinor and passionate Marianne. Upon their father’s death, the girls — along with their mother and younger sister — must move from their lavish country estate into a meager cottage, where they encounter love, heartbreak and requisite life lessons.
Erin Woods, Reduxion Theatre’s managing director, wrote and directed this Jane Austen adaptation, having previously tackled Pride & Prejudice in 2009. Unlike Pride, which retained its period setting, Sense has been transplanted from 18th-century England to present-day America, necessitating some small alterations to the text.
Preserving some of the more stilted affectations of the period language, such as avoiding all contractions, lends an overly formal tone that a few cast members had trouble getting their tongues around.
But the story itself doesn’t feel dated, and Woods keeps things moving at a fairly quick pace. The adaptation succeeds best in bringing the Dashwood family dynamic to life, while also clearly depicting the complex social politics ruling their lives.
Jennifer Wells as Elinor and Ian Clinton as Edward both overplay their characters’ awkward reserved natures in early scenes. They relax as the play goes on, however, with Clinton leveraging Edward’s limitations better in Act 2, and Wells doing her best work oppo site Tyler Woods, who makes a strong impact as the noble Colonel Brandon.
She also shares some great scenes with Rachael Barry, who perfectly embodies Marianne’s passion, impulsiveness and eventual hard-earned wisdom. Barry also has a killer vocal performance in Act 2.
Kris Schinske brings a naturalism and warmth to the role of Mrs.
Dashwood. Accompanied by an explosion of curls, Taylor Munholland brings an appropriate level of barely contained energy to her part of the youngest sister.
Siobhan Morava is deliciously vile as Fanny Dashwood, one of the play’s two powerful matriarchs. The other, Mrs. Jennings, is played by Elizabeth Ann Brooks, who steals every scene with a theatrical performance that isn’t overbearing in the least.
While not perfect, Sense & Sensibility does what Reduxion does best: creating relevant, entertaining adaptations of classic stories for modern audiences.