The production of Sense and Sensibility on campus this fall was impressive. The renowned Jane Austen play showed six times this November. Stephanie Newman led the way as the production’s director.
Creative staging could be witnessed upon entering the theater even before the lights dimmed. A huge open book that briefly detailed the contrasting personalities of the Elinor and Marianne Dashwood served as the backdrop of the production. Two white lattice structures served as walls, windows and even beds during the performance. A golden picture frame became utilized to allow characters that would otherwise be off screen to maintain their presence. For example, when a lengthy letter was received, the character who was not present but wrote the letter would read from the picture frame to give the audience a more similar impact to the character receiving the letter.
The musical accompaniment of the play was entirely classical renditions of popular modern anthems. Not only did the music serve to set the emotional tone during scene transitions, but also it dictated the choreography for numerous party scenes.
The unexpected musical accompaniment may not have been as surprising as the play’s unique casting. A number of cast members went full tilt and acted literally as dogs in one scene. In an even more curious instance, Chantelle Smith portrayed a horse pulling a carriage of four with a driver. Smith also had numerous other roles in the performance, including Sophia Grey, a wealthy heiress who attracts John Willoughby by her status and wealth, leaving Marianne Dashwood beside herself.
One of Keith Weikum’s three roles in the performance was the character of Mrs. Ferrars. Mrs. Ferrars’s is written to be a gatekeeper character, further complicating the predicaments of the Dashwood sisters. Mrs. Ferrars station, temper and wealth far outweigh her social acumen and emotional control. Weikum’s numerous gestures and expressions, from feigning approval to contempt, were spot on. The audience started laughing as soon as Weikum appeared on stage.
In contrasting styles but equal effectiveness, Samantha Sanders gave a convincing depiction of Lucy Steele, a character who proves to be both manipulating Elinor, and being manipulated by her own desire to be accepted into high society.
Amanda Robinson played Elinor Dashwood. Robinson’s command of her character fit excellently with the painfully self-controlled demeanor of Elinor Dashwood. She had clearly given adequate care to control her vocal rhythm and intonations, as well as her body language. Robinson’s role called for her to express to the audience what she had to hide from other characters with subtle but clear reactions, and she accomplished the task.
It was hard to discern if the actors had trouble cuing their vocal chords during some lines of the play, or if those same lines were not fully memorized. However, all of the actors who had some stumbles did quite a good job of recovering by responding as their own character would react if they were tongue tied.
“If I didn’t love you so much, I suppose I could say it more,” said Edward Ferrars to Elinor Dashwood at the climax of the play. This line, and its delivery by John Davis, captured the impending catharsis between the two young souls. After the tumultuous journey of the Dashwood sisters, at least a fair percentage of the audience was empathizing with the long suffering Elinor. From its blocking to its casting, the performance was engaging and polished.